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Sooitg fcg lEmtl ILubtof 








t*\ n ^ 

B. Mussolini to Emil Ludwig 

in memory of the conversations at the Palazzo Venezia 
during March and April, 1932 Anno X 



Translated from the German by 


BOSTON 1933 

First published in Germany in 1932 


Copyright, 1933, 


All rights reserved 
Published January, 1933 


To act is easy, but to think is difficult; and 
to guide our actions by thought is irksome. 




The Training of a Ruler 









The Problems of Power 






The Regions of Power 





Genius and Character 



ART 211 





J_ HE following conversations took place in the 
Palazzo di Venezia at Rome, being held almost daily 
for an hour at a time between March 23 and April 
4, 1932, both dates inclusive. We talked Italian and 
each conversation was recorded by me in German 
as soon as it was finished. Only a few sentences from 
earlier conversations have been introduced into this 
book. The German manuscript was submitted to 
Mussolini, who checked the passages in which his 
own utterances were recorded. 

No material other than the before-mentioned has 
been incorporated, but I have to acknowledge my 
indebtedness to Margherita Sarf atti for a good many 
hints conveyed to me in her biography. I have made 
no use of the numberless anecdotes current in 
Rome; and I have ignored the reports of Mussolini's 
collaborators, informative though these are. In a 
word, the talks consist of what actually passed in 
conversation between Mussolini and myself. 




Mistrust of the Dictator had been active in me 
for five years. Many of my Italian friends were hos- 
tile to his regime. Whenever I visited Italy I noted 
the omnipresence of uniforms, flags, and emblems 
whose sun was setting in Germany, though when I 
looked eastward they seemed to be dawning once 
again with terrific speed. 

Three circumstances combined to modify my 
outlook. First of all, the foundations of "democ- 
racy" and "parliamentarism" are crumbling. Inter- 
mediate types are manifesting themselves; the tradi- 
tional forms of political life have been undermined; 
there is a scarcity of men of mark. Secondly, both 
in Moscow and in Rome, I perceived that very 
remarkable things were being achieved upon the 
material plane, with the result that I came to recog- 
nise the constructive side of these two dictatorships. 
In the third place, psychological considerations led 
me to assume that the Roman statesman, notwith- 
standing the bellicose tenor of many of his speeches, 
was probably far from inclined to cherish plans of 

But my own observations of Mussolini's personal- 
ity had an even stronger effect upon my mind than 



the foregoing considerations. As soon as I had been 
led (so I believed) to recognise in him certain traits 
which reminded me of Nietzsche's teachings, the 
man seemed to become detached from his movement 
and I began to regard him as a phenomenon apart, 
as is my custom with men who play a part in history. 
The smile of practical politicians disturbs me as 
little as the animus of partisans in my own immedi- 
ate circle. To me a man's most insignificant charac- 
ter trait is more important than the longest of his 
speeches; and when I am forming a judgment con- 
cerning an omnipotent statesman, every such trait 
assists me to forecast his actions. Politics of the day 
and party programs, the two forms in which un- 
imaginative men contemplate the present, are of 
little interest to me. I have never belonged to any 
political party, and the only such party of which 
I could become a member would be an anti-war 
party, if such a party existed. The events of the last 
decade have convinced me that no system is abso- 
lutely the best, but that different nations at different 
times need different systems of government. Since 
I am before all an individualist, I could never have 
become a Fascist; and yet I do not fail to recognise 
that the Fascist movement has done great things 
for Italy. Transplanted to Germany, on the other 



hand, I think Fascism would be likely to prove dis- 
astrous, for reasons that will be touched upon in 
Part Four of these conversations. Besides, on the 
German stage there is no star performer competent 
to play the part of Fascist leader. 

It was easier for me to be an unbiased observer of 
Italian affairs because I was a foreigner. Had I been 
a French writer in the days of Napoleon, I should 
probably have stood aloof like Chateaubriand, 
whereas in those days as a German I should, like 
Goethe, have been filled with admiration for the 
Emperor. In like manner, Mussolini's figure im- 
presses and attracts me, independently of party con- 
siderations, and regardless of the conflicting facts 
that, while declaring himself an opponent of the 
Treaty of Versailles he has Italianised southern Ty- 
rol. The German Fascists find themselves in a 
dilemma when contemplating these inconsistencies; 
but my withers are unwrung, for I am content with 
the artistic observation of a remarkable personality. 


It became plain to me at our first encounter that 
Mussolini's personality was an extremely remark- 
able one. In the spring of 1929, 1 made advances to 
him at the time when Italian capitalists began to 



regard him with disfavour and when his foreign pol- 
icy became less provocative than before. During 
March of that year I had two conversations with 
him and subsequently I saw him again. On each 
occasion I was forearmed and turned the discussion 
towards the two questions concerning which we 
were decisively at odds, namely liberty and Fascism. 
In these interviews there speedily became manifest 
the cleavage between Fascist orthodoxy and the 
views of the founder of the faith a cleavage 
which is characteristic of every great movement. 
Furthermore, I was strengthened in the conviction 
derived from previous experiences that in historical 
analysis more stress must be laid on the spoken word 
than on the written. In conversation a man discloses 
himself more freely than on paper with a pen, espe- 
cially when he is as little inclined to pose as Musso- 
lini for in this respect the photographers ought 
to have uneasy consciences because they have sent 
forth a caricature into the world. 

Already in these first interviews, I was less con- 
cerned to discover what Italy thought of its leader 
and what the leader's attitude was towards the Ital- 
ians than to ascertain what Europe had to expect 
from Mussolini, who is wholly irresponsible, and 
therefore the most powerful man living in the world 



to-day. Was he going to be a source o unrest or 
predominantly a constructive factor? He had been 
a disciple of Nietzsche, had been an anarchist and a 
revolutionist. Would his demon continue to impel 
him along the path he had entered in youth? On the 
other hand, having risen to power, would it be his 
main object to consolidate that power for personal 
ends? Was he likely to spiritualise Nietzsche's doc- 
trines or to use them as a means for self -inflation? 

Out of these conversations upon the science and 
art of government originated a design to elaborate 
them systematically, to develop methodically what 
had been primarily a free interchange of ideas. The 
balloon drifting hither and thither at the mercy of 
the winds was to become an airplane steering a defi- 
nite course. At the same time, its flight was to be 
lofty and unconstrained. No secretary was present 
to take notes; no demand was made for the revision 
of a manuscript report; it was all a matter of per- 
sonal confidence. 


The Palazzo di Venezia is in the great square 
(Piazza di Venezia) in the middle of Rome, at the 
foot of the Capitoline Hill. Built of yellowish- 
brown stone, resembling a medieval fortress with a 



squat tower, the massive structure stands to the 
right of a huge modern monument in white marble, 
which is out of keeping with its surroundings and 
will need a century or more to acquire an incrusta- 
tion which will make it tolerably harmonious. The 
palace, five centuries old, has passed through many 
hands. Built by the popes, in the seventeenth cen- 
tury it was ceded to the republic of Venice, from 
which in due course it was taken over by the imperial 
house of Austria. A hundred years later, in 1915, 
the kingdom of Italy took it back from the Habs- 
burgs. Thus popes, kings, and condottieri have 
successively ruled in this palace, which in massive- 
ness, size, and the thickness of its walls probably 
excels every other palace in Rome. Beyond question 
as regards the spaciousness of its halls it transcends 
them all. 

The great folding doors stand open day and night, 
but in front of them two militiamen are on guard, 
and there is a tall porter in a silver-laced uniform 
to ask your business when you wish to enter. Still, 
it is easy enough to gain admittance, seeing that in 
the mezzanine there is an archaeological library for 
which a reader's ticket can readily be procured. A 
man who made an attempt on Mussolini's life was 
furnished with such a card. In tije evenings I saw 



a great many young men at work consulting the 
catalogues. Upon the entresol there is an iron gate 
to bar the staircase, but this was not always closed. 
The Puce spends about ten hours a day in these 
headquarters of his, and it certainly cannot be said 
that lie shuts himself away from the common herd 
after the manner of kings. 

On the first floor there are half a dozen rooms, 
large and small, which have been tastefully refur- 
nished. The floors are tiled as of old. Above are heavy 
beams, ancient and grimy. As in every Roman pal- 
ace, the windows with their stone window seats 
are the finest features of the interior. The vast halls 
are empty, with nothing more than a ponderous 
table of ancient date occupying the middle of each, 
and chairs which no one uses ranged round the walls. 
On these latter, distempered in orange or dull' 
blue, hang pictures: Madonnas, portraits, land- 
scapes by Veronese and Mainardi. Here and there 
are frescoes which may or may not be the work of 

There are glass-fronted cupboards, too, lighted 
from within, containing precious majolicas dating 
back to the thirteenth century, bejewelled images of 
the Blessed Virgin, priestly vestments, lace, and 
carven figures of the saints. A Byzantine chest made 



of ivory is said to be more than a thousand years old. 
As one looks at the smoked glassware from Murano, 
at greenish-gold bowls and goblets, and one's eye 
turns then to measure the thickness of the walls as 
displayed in the window recesses, one cannot but 
think of the gaily clad women whom the lords of 
this fortress, masters of many halberds and many 
spears, used to capture and cage within it until, 
perhaps, wearying of the splendid prison, they took 
vengeance by poisoning the condottieri who had 
carried them off. Weapons and armour, likewise, are 
part of the furnishing of this old-world palace: 
headless knights menacing of aspect, figures having 
a greyish-blue sheen like that of the sky just before 
a thunderstorm. In front of these empty shells is a 
huge chest containing swords and daggers; and be- 
' side the huge weapons with which bears were hunted 
lies the richly chased sword of justice. 

If the visitor is to be admitted to the presence, 
the chief among the attendants ushers him to the 
great inner doors. This man ranks as a "cavaliere" 
and is a figure of comic opera. But when the doors 
are flung open it is to disclose that which makes us 
feel we are contemplating a landscape rather than 
the interior of a room. 

This place in which Mussolini has carried on his 



work for several years now, its^windows giving on 
the Piazza di Venezia, is known as the Hall of the 
Mappa Mundi, for it was here that in former days 
the first of all terrestrial globes was installed. The 
room was built in the middle of the fifteenth cen- 
tury and, having Become ruinous, has recently been 
restored. It is m.Qe than-sixty feet long, forty feet 
wide, and forty Jfeet_ .high- There are two doors in 
the party wall leading into the anteroom, and from 
this one door opens into the great hall. Here we 
see a long wall interrupted by three gigantic win- 
dows with stone , window seats beneath, while the 
opposite wall is punctuated by painted columns. 
The place seems to be absolutely empty, containing * 
neither tables nor chairs, not even chairs placed 
along the walls; in the corners are tall torches with 
gilded flames, nowadays the standards for electric 
lights. In the far distance, so far away that we feel 
the need for a field glass, we see in silhouette the face 
of a man seated at a table, writing. 

Entering this great hall, the first thing that strikes 
us is the richly decorated ceiling which bears in re- 
lief the lion of Saint Mark and the she- wolf of Rome. 
Halfway along the wall facing the windows are 
displayed the arms of the three popes who built the 
palace. Advancing across the renovated flooring, we 



come, in the centre of the room, to a nearly life-sized 
mosaic of nude women and children, bearing fruit; 
this is the Abundanzia, and I always made a detour 
k to avoid treading on it. At length, in the remotest 


Corner, we reached*a table about twelve feet long, 
standing upon a carpet and flanked by two Savona- 
rola chairs. lose by these, against the wall, stands a 
tall reading desk on which lies a modern atlas. This 
was open to show the map of Europe. Adjoining the 
other end of the table is an enormous fireplace, cold 
as the marble which encompasses it. 

Behind the table, facing the windows, sits Musso- 
lini; rising, however, and advancing to meet a visitor 
from abroad. His writing table is in the meticulous 
.order of the strenuous worker. Since he clears up 
everything from day to day and tolerates no rem- 
nants, one small portfolio suffices to hold everything 
that relates to current affairs. Behind him, on an 
occasional table, are books actually in use, and we 
notice three telephones. The table is plain and un- 
adorned, bearing no more than a bronze lion and 
writing materials arranged with precision. The im- 
pression produced by the worktable, like the impres- 
sion produced by the great hall, is that of composure 
the composure of a man whose experiences have 
been multifarious. 




Our conversations took place evening after eve- 
ning across this table. The reader must understand 
that their fundamental theme is not so much the 
burning questions we discussed as the character of 
Mussolini which, in its manifold facets, I was en- 
deavouring to grasp. The following pages, therefore, 
are not Platonic dialogues in which this subject or 
that is exhaustively dealt with. Nevertheless, the 
nature of our talks is based upon the polarity of 
the interlocutors. I had devoted much time and 
thought to the question how I could best confront 
my own views with his, how I could most effectively 
induce him to speak frankly and freely while avoid- 
ing the danger of entering into one of those pon- 
derous "disputations" which are fatal to conversa- 
tion in any true sense of the term. He knew that 
upon two matters of primary importance I was 
radically opposed to him and that there was no likeli- 
hood of my coming over into his camp; but this very 
fact may have been a stimulus. Furthermore, I was 
inclined to stress my opposition in the hope of mak- 
ing him more emphatic and lucid in his rejoinders. 
Yet I had to avoid a contradictiousness which would 
have made our conversations interminable; and, 



since he had put no restriction upon the number of 
our interviews, I felt it incumbent upon me to avoid 
wasting his time. Besides, I find it more congenial 
to leave my readers untrammelled. Let each come 
to his own conclusion regarding the questions 
mooted in this book a conclusion which will vary 
in accordance with his general principles and will 
lead perhaps to one side in one topic and to another 
side in another. The result of this method of ap- 
proach is that in my talks with Mussolini neither 
of us will be found "to get the best of it" without 
qualification. Problems are formulated, not solved. 
For me, the dictator of Italy has become a histori- 
cal figure, and, since he let me follow my own bent, 
I questioned him as I have been accustomed to ques- 
tion other historical figures. In this matter I can 
make no difference between the living and the dead. 
When I shook hands with Edison it was with the 
feeling "This is Archimedes!" With Napoleon I 
had, in imagination, held a hundred long conversa- 
tions before I took up my pen to describe the Em- 
peror. In Mussolini's case, certainly, the antithesis 
was more conspicuous. We might well regard these 
conversations as a dialogue between a fully armed 
Reason of State and a Pacifist Individualism. The 
contrasts between us are extensive, and even his edu- 



cation has been very different from mine. Our point 
of contact is Nietzsche, whose name cropped up 
more often in the actual talks than in their con- 
densed reproduction. 

"What I was studying was the man's character in 
the widest sense of the term. Since, however, I have 
had no private documents available for the purposes 
of this study, and since in actual conversation with 
a living man I could learn far less of his intimate 
life than I could learn of the intimate life of Bis- 
marck or of Lincoln by the perusal of their letters, 
I have been restricted to such an impressionist pic- 
ture as can be achieved on the basis of talks concern- 
ing purely abstract matters. This book is an attempt 
at indirect portraiture. One who regards as trifling 
the question what kind of music a statesman loves 
has failed to understand the art of mental analysis, 
for in truth such matters exert a decisive influence 
upon action. Owing to the world's ignorance of 
Bismarck's inner life, there had become current a 
distorted picture of him as a swashbuckling cav- 
alry officer, and it was this picture which I endeav- 
oured to replace by a new one. In Mussolini's case 
I am trying to do the same thing while the man yet 
lives, in order to substitute a new picture for the 
views and the trends of the contemporary world. 



In my undertaking I had to confine myself to the 
man of fifty or thereabouts who sat opposite me. 
If, occasionally, I delved into his past, this was not 
done in order to disclose the contradictions which 
must necessarily manifest themselves between the 
ages of forty and fifty in a person who is playing a 
notable part in the world, nor was it done in order 
to study the individual of those earlier days, since 
'for this a biography would have been requisite. 
According to my conviction that each man's des- 
tiny has a logic of its own, no biography can be writ- 
ten of one who is still in the third act of his life 
drama. No, my aim has been, over and above -de- 
scribing the personality of Mussolini, to character- 
ise the man of action in general, and to show once 
again how closely akin are the poet and the states- 

But the following conversations, be they devoted 
to political, historical, or moral topics, still remain 
conversations on the psychological plane. Even 
when concrete questions are put and answered, the 
underlying aim is invariably to emphasise the dis- 
tinctive traits of the central figure. It will be futile 
for the reader to look for sensationalism. The sub- 
lime calm of Mussolini and the august serenity of 
the great hall gave our converse an extremely serious 



tone. One who wishes to take soundings of the sea 
must not attempt to do so during a storm. My own 
independence and the indulgence of him whom I 
questioned left me perfectly free to ask whatever 
I would and, for this very reason, imposed dis- 

I was dealing with a lion, mighty but high-strung 
and nervous. I had to keep him in a good mood and 
to make sure that he would never feel bored. When 
thorny questions came up for discussion, I found it 
expedient to make historical detours, to assume a 
theoretical tone, leaving it to Mussolini to decide 
whether he would consider the problem exhaus- 
tively. At the same time, I had to drive at a speed 
of a hundred miles an hour in order, in the short 
time allotted, to get to the end of my program. Let 
me confess that the tension of these hours of con- 
verse in a foreign tongue induced great fatigue. I 
venture to hope that Mussolini, too, was perhaps 
a little tired! For my part, anyhow, I came home 
each day like a sportsman who has fired many shots, 
but does not know how successful he has been until 
he empties his game bag. 

During our talks, no superfluous word was ut- 
tered. Courteously but firmly, Mussolini dismissed 
me when the hour was up, to resume the thread of 



our discourse punctually on the following day. We 
were never interrupted by telephone calls or by im- 
portunate messengers. Owing to this lack of any 
kind of disturbance, there prevailed in the great hall 
a tranquillity such as, in general, can only be 
achieved late at night, when two friends meet for 
intimate conversation. In earlier centuries, one may 
suppose, the hall must have been lively with music 
and dancing, a place where intrigues were con- 
cocted in the window seats, and where flattery 
was rife. Kings and lords must have paraded their 
glories here, but when they wished for serious con- 
versation they must have withdrawn to smaller 
rooms, since the hall was only used on great occa- 
sions. For the last three years, however, forty-two 
millions of human beings have been ruled from this 
centre. The spirits of the popes whose coats of arms 
adorned the walls, and those of the lion and the she- 
wolf on the ceiling, may have listened with wonder 
to our opening talks, to return, after a while, to a 
slumber which has been undisturbed for centuries. 


After each conversation my first task was to re- 
cord it as faithfully as possible and without addi- 
tions. I compressed rather than expanded, and was 



careful to avoid any kind of staginess (to which 
Fascism has been unduly prone)* I was particularly 
attracted by the indirect form of characterisation, 
otie lying intermediate between my dramatic and 
my biographical work. 

I retained, however, the lively conversational 
form, although the subsequent introduction of 
headlines has emphasised the opening of each new 
topic. I had in mind something like Goethe's conver- 
sations with Luden, the longest Goethe conversa- 
tion which has come down to us, and one of the fin- 
est, because it has not been touched up after the 
manner of Eckermann, and because the dissent and 
the memory of the lesser interlocutor have engen- 
dered and preserved a remarkable freshness. Con- 
sequently I have not drawn a picture of the man, 
for this would rob the conversation of its chief con- 
tent. The reader must limn that picture for him- 

Secondly, it was incumbent upon me to remain as 
far as possible in the background, since my readers 
want to hear Mussolini's views and not mine, and I 
have plenty of other opportunities of setting forth 
my opinions. The last thing I wished was to argue 
with him in order to maintain my own point of 
view, my essential aim being to disclose to the world 



for the first time the man of action as a thinker and 
to reveal the connection between his activities and 
his thoughts. This seems to me eminently desirable 
because the arrogance of those who are shut out 
from the world of action and the folly of the masses 
have combined to diffuse the erroneous belief that 
the man of action thinks as little as the man of 
study acts. In these conversations the historian of 
future days may find grounds for confirming what 
Roederer revealed in the matter of the First Consul. 
Roederer records a great many arguments showing 
how the Corsican came to decide upon his actions 
and what he thought about them such thoughts 
being more important for our knowledge of the 
human heart than any action can be. 

I was in a very different position from Eckermann 
and from other memorialists of his kidney. Such 
men spent year after year in close intercourse with 
the persons whose conversations they recorded and 
noted down what was spontaneously uttered. My 
talks with Mussolini were for an hour a day upon 
a few successive days and I had to provide the stim- 
ulus for what he said instead of being merely re- 

Since his chief interest is in Fascism, and my chief 
interest is in the problem of war and peace, neither 



of these matters emerges as a special topic, but they 
run as red threads through all the Mussolini con- 

Naturally, each one of my readers will find this 
or that subject missing from our talks. Young men 
who aspire to become dictators will vainly seek for 
any hints as to how they may become condottieri. 
As for those who want a detailed account of Fas- 
cism, I can only refer them to the treatises of ex- 
perts, who exhaust the topic and their readers like- 
wise. Ladies, or some of them maybe, are likely to 
complain because nothing is said about the love af- 
fairs of the hero; or they will at least want to know 
something about his manner of life. Rigid Social- 
ists will underline the passages in which, as a histo- 
rian in the judgment seat, I ought to have con- 
fronted Mussolini with the evidence of his apostasy. 
German professors of history will contemptuously 
disniiss a work wherein "matters of the gravest im- 
port are discussed in a light conversational tone" 
and will complain bitterly because I have not given 
chapter and verse for certain sentences quoted by 
me from Mussolini's speeches. The phenomenologists 
will be extremely angry with me because I do not 
use their jargon and have therefore made difficult 
questions intelligible to the ordinary reader. No 



doubt every one will complain that great oppor- 
tunities have been scandalously missed. 


For twenty-five years I had, from a distance, been 
studying the man of action and had been trying to 
depict him, dramatically, historically, and psycho- 
logically. Now he sat facing me across a table. The 
condottiere Cesare Borgia, whom I had once por- 
trayed in a Roman palace, the hero of the Romagna, 
seemed to have been resurrected, though he wore a 
dark lounge suit and a black necktie, and the tele- 
phone gleamed between us. In this same hall men of 
his sort had triumphed and had fallen; now I faced 
their successor, Italian through and through, wholly 
a man of the Renaissance. To begin with, I was con- 
founded by the feeling of so strange a resemblance. 

Yet my man of action had assumed the most pas- 
sive role conceivable. He who for ten years had al- 
ways been in command had at length consented to 
answer another's questions. I had merely submitted 
to him an outline sketch of the topics I wanted to 
discuss. His entire self-confidence was manifested 
in the patience with which he listened to and an- 
swered the most difficult questions, and in the lack 
of any attempt to guide the conversation towards 



ends chosen by himself. Not once, moreover, did he 
stipulate that a reply must be regarded as confiden- 
tial, so that the deletions he thought it expedient 
to make in my record of our talks were trifling. 

For all his outward equanimity, he was perpetu- 
ally on the alert. It must be remembered that I knew 
what I was going to ask him, whereas he was taken 
unprepared; (and since my questions seldom re- 
lated to matters concerning which ordinary inter- 
viewers must have asked him, but dealt with feel- 
ings, self-knowledge, and motives, he had instantly 
to look within for an answer, to formulate it 
promptly, and to phrase it after the manner in 
which he would like to make his private thoughts 
known to the world. Nevertheless in his amazing 
mastery of thought and speech he seemed entirely 
unaffected, having no inclination either to use su- 
perlatives or to raise his voice. He was good- 
humoured in face of my scepticism and did not 
make a single answer which seemed directed toward 
the vast crowd of his admirers. Not once did he use 
what might have been regarded as an appropriate 
Fascist catchword. A dozen times he could have 
coined some "Napoleonic" rejoinder for the benefit 
of the contemporary world and of posterity, but 
the reader will not find so many as three in these 



conversations. To about four hundred questions he 
replied with the same imperturbable repose. To one 
only which, perhaps, I should never have asked, and 
which is not recorded in these pages, he responded 
silently with a glance which implied: "You know 
quite well that I have nothing to say about that!" 

I knew, of course, well enough when he was reti- 
cent. Men of action talk about the realities of power 
with as much discretion as the husband of a beauti- 
ful woman shows when he speaks of her charms; 
they only describe what all the world can see. Still, 
his reserves, and the manner of them, gave me much 
insight into his character. Furthermore, this reti- 
cence, these reserves, related exclusively to the fu- 
ture. He never tried to twist or to conceal the 
utterances of his Socialist days, but always frankly 
acknowledged them. Nor did he ever try to em- 
barrass me by the argumentum ad hominem, by ask- 
ing me, "What would you have done in such a case?" 
Rarely, indeed, did he reply in the interrogative 
form, speaking affirmatively, briefly, and to the 

He loves simplicity of speech and has no taste for 
sparkling epigrams, with the result that the more 
concise among his answers sound like abrupt deci- 
sions. His style, in conversation at any rate, observes 



the true Italian mean between French and German, 
for it is neither elegant nor cumbrous, but metallic, 
the metal not being iron, but finely tempered steel, 
and the phrasing elastic and richly modulated in ac- 
cordance with the Italian tradition. Then, of a sud- 
den, he will say something perfectly simple, arriv- 
ing at an unexpected conclusion which is presented 
undraped. His lucid Italian (based, one might think, 
upon Latin models) contrasts strongly in all respects 
with D'Annunzio's soaring oratory, this mould of 
expression sufficing by itself to distinguish the man 
of action from the Platonist. 

With his consent, titles of address were promptly 
jettisoned, so that I could pursue my questioning 
without flourishes and without needless delay. He 
never attempted to correct my faulty Italian; but 
when, on one occasion, I mispronounced a French 
name, the sometime schoolmaster peeped out amus- 
ingly, and in a low tone he uttered it as it should 
have been spoken. When, in his turn, he wanted to 
speak jf the "Umwertung aller Werte" (revalua- 
tion of all values) , and, despite his intimate knowl- 
edge of our language, made a slip, he corrected him- 
self by adding ff genitivu$ pluralis" I may mention 
in passing that I have heard him speak both French 
and English with fluency. His memory is so good 



that on the spur of the moment he was able to men- 
tion the names of the universities at which a French 
ethnologist had taught; the names of the Jewish 
generals who were serving in the Italian army at the 
date of our conversations and the places in which 
they held command; and also the date when John 
Huss was burned. 

Like all true dictators, Mussolini shows the utmost 
courtesy. It would seem as if such men, between 
races, like to make their steed prance gracefully 
upon the saddling ground. He never appeared nerv- 
ous or out of humor, but fingered a pencil while he 
was talking or sometimes sketched with it idly (I 
have seen the same trick in another dictator) . He 
fidgeted a good deal in his chair, like a man whom 
long-continued sitting makes uneasy. It has been 
said that at times he breaks off in the middle of his 
work, mounts a motor cycle, and races off to Ostia 
with one of his children sitting pillion the police 
detailed to protect him dashing after him in a desper- 
ate attempt to keep in touch. 

Speaking generally, he leads a far more lonely 
life than do the Russian leaders, who meet one an- 
other and watch one another in innumerable com- 
mittees. Since he also leads an extremely healthy life 
and has managed to secure a marvellously quiet 



environment, he seems much more likely to live to 
a ripe old age than statesmen who are incessantly 
on the go. Apart from the exercise of power, he 
has no enjoyments. Titles, crowns, and social life 
mean nothing to him, this being specially remark- 
able in Rome, where the diplomatic corps is more 
strongly represented and more authoritative than 
in any other capital. From this outlook, Mussolini 
could to-day almost say to himself "I am the State." 
Yet when two workmen turned up one evening to 
repair his telephone, he greeted them and bade them 
farewell with so much cordiality that I could not 
but think of the cold arrogance which an ordinary 
"captain of industry" would have displayed in face 
of so tiresome an interruption. 

Notwithstanding his reticence, he has humour, a 
grim humour which manifests itself in restrained 
laughterl But he cannot understand a joke and no 
one would ever venture to tell him what is called 
a funny story. He loves order and precision. Open- 
ing one of the volumes of an encyclopaedia, he looks 
for statistics concerning Italian women and gives 
them to me down to three places of decimals. Once 
he said to me, "I have a dislike for the a peii pres" In 
the German typescript I submitted to him he punc- 
tiliously corrected all the typist's errors. So great is 



his exactitude that when, in search of certain in- 
formation, I wanted to get in touch with some of 
his ministers of state, he telephoned to them twice 
over, giving full details as to the place and time of 
meeting and as to the materials with which they 
were to supply me. Thrift, which upstarts are very 
apt to forget, has for him become so much second 
nature that he wrote some notes for me on the back 
of cards of which the other side contained the pen- 
cilled agenda of the previous week. 

In conversation, Mussolini is the most natural 
man in the world. Yet I know that people who are 
themselves poseurs have given a different picture 
of him. 


One who wishes to know a man of action as he 
really is must make his acquaintance when he is well 
advanced in his career, since if he be of strong char- 
acter, success will develop it. For Mussolini at fifty, 
mature and balanced, it seems to me that the funda- 
mental moral problem must be to hold a revolution- 
ary temperament in check. I do not think that he 
will fail to do so, inasmuch as he embodies likewise 
some of the characteristics of the paterfamilias, and 
at his present age these tend to become confirmed. 



But I have a second reason for believing that he will 
keep the peace. 

Taking into consideration all that I have heard 
and all that I have seen, I have no hesitation in de- 
scribing him as a great statesman. What is great- 
ness in a man of action? For me this greatness must 
consist in the coincidence of certain qualities, each 
present in a suitable dose and combining to make up 
a character capable of exercising a moral command 
capable, that is to say, of constructive work in 
the grand style. 

I think that Mussolini to-day, ten years after the 
conquest of power, is much more ardently inclined 
to promote the constructive development of Italy 
than to engage in destructive activities against his 
enemies; it seems to me that the victories he seeks 
are now only victories within the frontiers of his 
own country. Apart from this, he has two traits 
which are lacking in most dictators and which are 
nevertheless indispensable to greatness. Though 
risen to power, he has not lost the capacity of admir- 
ing the great deeds of others, while he has acquired 
the faculty of recognising what is symbolical in his 
own achievements. Both these qualities, necessary 
elements of the Goethean type, safeguard a self- 
controlled man of power from megalomania and 



range him in that category of philosophical spirits 
to which all true men o action belong. 

Mussolini rose to power without having to make 
war and was therefore at times exposed to the temp- 
tation of seeking to acquire fame as a warrior. For 
various reasons this epoch of pugnacity would ap- 
pear to be closed. To-day he has the choice between 
striving to resemble one or other of two contrasted 
dictators, the ageing Napoleon and the ageing 
Cromwell. The following conversations will show 
which is likely to be his exemplar. 






'HAT about hunger?" I inquired. "Was 
hunger, likewise, one of your teachers?" 

As I questioned him thus, he scrutinised me with 
his dark eyes which gleamed like black satin in the 
half light. Thrusting forward his chin as his man- 
ner is, he seemed to be communing with the arduous 
experiences of his youth. Then, speaking in low 
tones, and pausing from time to time, he answered: 

"Hunger is a good teacjjgr. Almost as good as 

JfOHfllMH-l***. H^_. _ L .. J . -,,,,,.., ^Jaf ^U.*** 1 ,.-""'"*!'!,"""* **** V^ 

prison and a man's enemies. My mother, who was 
a schoolmistress, earned fifty lire a month; my 
father, a blacksmith, now more, now less. We lived 
in a two-room tenement. Rareljr was there anyjrneat 
on the table from one week's end to another. There 
were passionate arguments and quarrels; ardent 
hopes. My father was sent to prison as a Socialist 
agitator. When he died, thousands of his comrades 
followed his body to the grave side. All this provided 
a definite trend to my aspyrajEJLQns. Had I had a dif- 
ferent sort of father, I should have become a dif- 
ferent sort of man. But my character was already 



formed in the early days at home. Any one closely 
acquainted with me at that time could already have 
recognised when I was sixteen what I now am, with 
all the light and shade. The fact that I was born 
among the common people put the trump cards in 
my hand." 

This was said in his low-pitched voice, whose 
sound recalls that of a distant gong. I have heard 
it in two different tones. Sometimes, when he was 
speaking in the open, it had a military resonance, 
reminding me of Trotsky talking to the crowd. In 
ordinary conversation, however, he never raises his 
voice, speaking in a way which betokens a pur- 
posive economising of his energies. But I have heard 
him use the same repressed tones in the open air, 
talking to a knot of twenty workmen who stood 
round him in a circle. Xhis restraint is emblematic 
of the man's whole disposition. In general, Musso- 
lini holds himself in check, making a display of his 
natural vigour only on rare occasions. 

"With your constructive instinct," I said, "you 
take delight in machines. Does this date from child- 
hood, when in the smithy you made acquaintance 
with the elements out of which machines are built 
up? Do you believe that the practice of a handicraft 
has a productive influence upon mental work?" 


"A very powerful influence/' he answered em- 
phatically. "These early impressions are deep and 
lasting. Watching the hammer in the forge one ac- 
quires a passion for this matter which a man can and 
must fashion in accordance with his will. Down to 
this very day I am attracted when I see a stonemason 
building the framework for a window and I feel 
that I should like to do the job myself." 

"I once read a letter you wrote thirty years ago, 
a letter in which you told a friend about your jour- 
ney to Switzerland, and said that passing through 
the St. Gotthard in the night had divided your life 
into two parts." 

"Yes, such was the effect of that night," said Mus- 
solini. "I am sure of it, I was nineteen years old, 
wrote verses, and wanted to go out into the world 
to try my fortune. So impatient was I that I aban- 
doned my post as schoolmaster, left my father in 
prison (not that I could have done anything to set 
him free!) and, almost penniless, went to Switzer- 
land to make my living there as a manual worker. 
One does that sort of thing in mingled enthusiasm 
and despair; but perhaps rage is the dominant feel- 
ing. I had been infuriated by the sorrows of my par- 
ents; I had been humiliated at school; to espouse the 
cause of the revolution gave hope to a young man 

who felt himself disinherited. It was inevitable that 
I should become a Socialist ultra, a Blanquist, indeed 
a communist. I carried about a medallion with 
Marx's head on it in my pocket. I think I regarded 
it as a sort of talisman." 

"What do you think of Marx now when you 
look at such a medallion?" 

"That he had a profound critical intelligence and 
was in some sense even a prophet. But at that time, 
in Switzerland, I had little chance of discussing such 
matters. Among my fellow workers I was the most 
cultured, and besides, we worked very long hours. 
In the chocolate factory at Orbe there was a twelve- 
hour day; and when I was a builder's labourer I had 
to carry a hod up two storeys one hundred and 
twenty times a day. Yet even then I had an obscure 
conviction that I was only being schooled for what 

was to come." 

"Even when you were imprison?" 

"There, above all," he rejoined. "There I learned 
patience. Prison is like a sea voyage. On a ship and 
in prison a man has to be patient." 

I pressed him to tell me about these prison expe- 

He leaned forward into the light of the tall stand- 
ard lamp, laying both his arms on the table as is 



his way when he wants to explain something very 
clearly or to relate an anecdote. At such times he is 
especially genial, thrusting his chin forward, pout- 
ing his lips a little, while fruitlessly endeavouring 
to mask his good humour by knitting his eyebrows. 

"I have tasted prison m yarioM^cpi^tries, 
eleven times in all. I was jailed in Berne, Lausanne, 
Geneva, Trent, and Forli, in some of these towns 
several times. It always gave me a r$$t which other- 
wise I should not have been able to get. That is why 
I do not bear my jailers any grudge. During one of 
my terms of imprisonment I read 'Don Quixote' and 
found it extraordinarily amusing." 

"I suppose that is why you clap your political op- 
ponents in jail?" I asked ironically, and he smiled. 
"But does not the memory of your own prison ex- 
periences sometimes give you pause?" 

He looked at me in manifest surprise. 

"By no means! It seems to me that I am perfectly 
consistent. They began by locking me up. Now I 
pay them back in their own coin." 




.N Prussia," I said, "even though we disliked 
drill, military service was so attractive that, long 
after it was done with, the reddest of Socialists 
would, over his beer, love to recall the vanished joys 
of youth in the army. But you, as I learned from 
one of your letters, when you were a soldier were 
fearfully patriotic, being in this matter far more 
ardent than any German Socialist I have known 
ever was in peace time. Instead of railing at your 
officers, as did every other Italian private in those 
days, you expressed a wish to be a thoroughly good 
soldier. Was it a matter of personal pride or did 
you wish to do yourself credit as a Socialist? 9 * 

"Both reasons were at work," he rejoined. "In 
truth I was a model soldier. I never felt that there 
was any conflict between my military duties and 
my Socialism. Why should not a good soldier be also 
a fighter in the class war? It is true that even to-day 
the Italians are very critical of their officers. That 



makes the latter mind their p's and q's. Besides, a 
man must learn to obey before he can command," 

"I find it difficult to discover when you can have 
learned to obey!" 

"In the army, at least," he said; but he could not 
think of any other occasion. 

"And to-day, after the lapse of fifteen years, do 
you still think of war as a means of education, like, 
so to speak, a duel? Do you still hold that such a man 
as yourself ought to take his place in the trenches, 
instead of continuing to work at a writing desk; and 
in days to come, if similar circumstances were to 
arise, would you send such a man as yourself to the 

He looked at me keenly, for he saw that I was a 
trifle heated and that I had given him a chance to 
underline his contention. Turning a little in his 
chair, he placed his finger tips together a trick 
he has. Mussolini has beautiful hands, and I have 
noticed the same bodily characteristics in other dic- 
tators. He replied: 

"What use I should make of such a man would 
depend upon circumstances. As for the duel, that 
is a chivalric form of encounter and I have myself 
fought several duels. But the school of war is cer- 
tainly a very great experience. It. brixigs _a man 



into contact with stark reality. From day to day, 
from hour to hour, he is faced with the alternative 
of life or death. At the front I saw that the Italians 
are good soldiers. For us this was the first great test 
for a thousand years. Yes, I am not exaggerating! 
Although there have been innumerable wars be- 
tween the provinces and the city-states of Italy, our 
nation as a whole has not known war on the grand 
scale since the fall of the Roman Empire. Not even 
during the overthrow of the republic of Florence 
that was four centuries back. Napoleon was the first 
to test our people under arms and was well content 
with the result." 

Since I had made up my mind never to argue a 
point with him (for the object of these talks was 
not that we should convince each other but merely 
that I should get to know him) , I went back to the 
topic of the trenches. 

"It surprises me that you, of all people, found 
it possible to endure the incessant proximities of 
trench life. Dehmel, the poet, who went to the front 
as a volunteer, told me that the hardest thing to bear 
was that he was never alone." 

"Same here," said Mussolini. "In compensation, 
one learned, above all, the art of attack and de- 



"Are you talking literally or metaphorically? Did 
you learn enough about strategy to turn the knowl- 
edge to account in your March on Rome?" 

"Literally, I learned something at the front. 
Though I did not personally lead the march, the 
advance in three diagonals was decided upon by me 
in conversation with the generals." 

"You were lucky enough to rise to power with- 
out bloodshed," said I. "But suppose that some day 
you were to become involved in a war, that one of 
your generals proved incompetent and suffered a 

Mussolini's face wrinkled ironically. 

"Suppose! Well, what then?" 

"Suppose that the upshot was the destruction of 
the great work you have been constructing for so 
many years." 

"You know well enough," he replied, perfectly 
serious once more, "that through all these years I 
have been careful to avoid anything of the kind," 

I had overshot the mark a little and returned to 
personal matters by asking him if he had ever been 
grievously wounded. 

"So badly wounded that it was impossible for me 
to be moved! One of the newspapers had mentioned 
where I was laid up. Thereupon the Austrians 



shelled the hospital. All the patients except three 
had been removed. There I lay for several days, ex- 
pecting from moment to moment to be blown to 

"Is it true that when they performed a necessary 
operation you refused to take chloroform?" 

He nodded affirmatively. 

"I wanted to keep an eye upon what the surgeons 
were doing." 

"It seems to me you must have been an exception 
in your enthusiasm for the war." 

"No," he insisted. "In those days there were 
plenty of young men who went joyfully to death." 

"But what about the millions of the slain? Were 
they all joyful in their deaths? How, then, do you 
account for the fact that so vast a war did not pro- 
duce a single poem worthy of the name, whereas 
plenty of fine poems were written about earlier 
wars, fought for vengeance or to win freedom 
or perchance its semblance? Speaking generally, can 
an emotional mood be sustained for several years?" 

"No, no," he answered. "As for what you say 
about poems, the war was too great and the men who 
fought it were too small." 

"The next war will be largely a war of poison 
gas, a war in which there will be much less scope for 



courage and little possibility for the personal activ- 
ity of self-defence. Do you think that the war of 
to-morrow will still be an important school, an ir- 
replaceable training for youth?" 

"Not irreplaceable. Still, it will always be a fine 
discipline to stand fire. To win freedom from the 
tremors of fear cannot fail to have a profound moral 

Since Mussolini and I were not likely to come to 
an understanding upon this matter of war, I turned 
to the question of journalism and asked him whether 
he had learned muchjLS a newspaper man. 

"A great deal," he replied, speaking now more 
quickly and in a livelier tone, like one looking back 
upon the culminating phases of his youth. "For me 
my newspaper was a weapon, a banner, my very 
soul. I once thought of it as my favourite child." 

"And to-day?" I asked. "If you think journalism 
so important a school, why do you muzzle, the 

"Things have changed very much since the war," 
he answered emphatically. "To-day the newspapers, 
most of them at any rate, up longer serve, jcleas but 
<$nly per$o&al interests. This being so, how can they 
achieve the moral education of those who write for 
them? Technically, however, journalism remains an 



educational force, for diplomatists* and statesmen, 
seeing that it accustoms them to form their views 
quickly and to adapt themselves to changing situa- 
tions. But a journalist should be young." 

"Prince Biilow once quoted to me the French epi- 
gram: f Le journalisme mene a tout, pourvu qu'on en 
sorted But since you think that running a newspaper 
has taught you so much and presumably your 
readers as well surely you must recognise that 
any kind of , censorship must make an end of this 
part of productive criticism?" 

"That is an illusion, 5 ' he briskly rejoined. "First of 
all," he picked up a newspaper, "here you will find 
one of my ordinances vigorously criticised. In the 
second place, when there is no censorship, the papers 
only publish what their paymasters, large-scale in- 
dustry and the banks, want to have printed." 

"Perhaps things were not quite so bad twenty 
years ago, when you were an interviewer. In those 
days did you study the physiognomy of your sub- 
jects? And did you prepare yourself for the fray, as 
I have prepared myself before coming to interview 

"Of course I did," said Mussolini. "For instance, 
when I interviewed Briand at Cannes. Not so very 
long afterwards we met again as prime ministers. 


I have always been a physiognomist. But to-day, 
when I read even more newspapers than I used to do, 
I sometimes think that any four-footed jackass 
could write better than these fellows do. Especially 
do I think so when I read attacks." 

"You read a lot of newspapers, then?" 

"All I can, and especially the journals of my 
enemies. I collect caricatures too, and have volumes 
filled with them." 

"There have already been caricatures of you and 
me together," said I. "In a German newspaper I am 
figured sitting astride your shoulder." 

Mussolini laughed, saying: 

"Caricature is important; it is necessary. Your 
people are always saying that the government of 
Italy is now a tyranny. Have you read Trilusso's 
satires? They are venomous, but so clever that I have 
not suppressed them." 

"To-day, when you can survey the problems of 
state from an airplane, do you find that your earlier 
critical writings were unjust? Or were you already 
constructive as a Socialist newspaper man?" 

"Oh, I used to make constructive proposals even 
then; but only now am I able to take a comprehen- 
sive view, and that makes me gentler in my judg- 
ment of my colleagues." 



"But if you write articles to-day, are you more 

moderate than you used to be?" 
His eyes flashed as he answered: 
"I can only write fiercely and resolutely/ 5 
"In those earlier days, when your fierceness and 

resoluteness seemed of no avail, did you think that 

you were still only in the prelude?" 

The sternness of his expression relaxed. In such 

moments of expansion, he opens his eyes so wide that 

one feels as if he wished to breathe in the light 

through them. 

fered, I had 3 definite ioreboding 
trainedL for a mate important position." 




)ME one had made me a present of the edition 
de luxe of Machiavelli, which the Fascist State pub- 
lishing organisation has somewhat too conspicuously 
dedicated to the Duce. All the same, it is doubtless 
better that a dictatorial government should ac- 
knowledge its obligations to this instructor of 
dictators than that, while secretly acting on his 
theories, it should use "Machiavellian" as a term of 
abuse. When Frederick the Great was yet only 
crown prince he wrote his moralising "Anti- 
MachiaveL" In later days he became more straight- 
forward, governing frankly in accordance with 
Machiavelli's principles. 

"Did you make early acquaintance with Ma- 
chiavelli's 'The Prince?' " I asked Mussolini. 

"My father used to read the book aloud in the 
evenings, when we were warming ourselves beside 
the smithy fire and were drinking the vin ordinaire 
produced from our own vineyard. It made a deep 
impression on me. When, at the age of forty, I read 
Machiavelli once again, the effect was reinforced." 


"It is strange/* I said, "how such men as Machia- 
velli flourish for a time, pass into oblivion, and are 
then resuscitated. It seems as if there were seasonal 


"What you say is certainly true of nations. They 
have a spring and a winter, more than one. At length 
they perish." 

"It is because there are recurring seasons in the 
national life that I have never been much alarmed 
that winter now prevails in Germany," said I. "A 
hundred years ago and more, when Germany had 
fallen on evil days, Goethe made fun of those who 
spoke of our 'decay.' Have you studied any of the 
notable figures of our political life?" 

"Bismarck," he promptly answered. "From the 
outlook of political actualities, he was the greatest 
man of his century. I have never thought of him as 
merely the comic figure with three hairs on his bald 
head and a heavy footfall. Your book confirmed my 
impression as to how versatile and complex he was. 
In Germany, do people know much about our 

"Very little," I answered. "They know much 
more about Mazzini. Recently I read a very fine 
letter of Mazzini's to Charles Albert, written, I 
think, in 1831 or 1832; the invocation of a poet to 



a prince. Do you approve of Charles Albert's having 
issued orders for Mazzini's imprisonment should he 
cross the frontier?" 

"The letter," said Mussolini, "is one of the most 
splendid documents ever written. Charles Albert's 
figure has not yet become very clear to us Italians. 
A little while ago his diary was published and this 
throws considerable light upon his psychology. At 
first, of course, he inclined to the side of the liberals. 
When, in 1 8 3 2 no, in 1 8 3 3 the Sardinian Gov- 
ernment sentenced Mazzini to death in con- 
tumacmm, this happened in a peculiar political 


The answer seemed to me so guarded that, in my 
persistent but unavowed determination to compare 
the present to the past, I considered it necessary to 
speak more clearly. 

"Those were the days when Young Italy was 
being published illegally. Don't you think that such 
periodicals appear under all censorships? "Would 
you have imprisoned Mazzini?" 

"Certainly not," he rejoined. "If a man has ideas 
in his head, let him come to me, and we will talk 
things over. But when Mazzini wrote that letter, 
he was guided more by his feelings than by his reason. 
Piedmont in those days had only four million in- 



habitants and could not possibly form front against 
powerful Austria with her thirty millions." 

"Well, Mazzini was jailed," I resumed. "Soon 
afterwards, Garibaldi was sentenced to death. Two 
generations later, you were put in prison. Should we 
not infer that a ruler ought to think twice before 
punishing his political opponents?" 

"I suppose you mean that we don't think twice 
here in Italy?" he inquired with some heat. 

"But you have reintroduced capital punish- 


"There is capital punishment in all civilised 
countries; in Germany, no less than in France and 
in England." 

"Yet it was in Italy," I insisted, "in the mind of 
Beccaria, that the idea of abolishing capital punish- 
ment originated. Why have you revived it?" 

"Because I have read Beccaria," replied Mussolini, 
simply and without irony. He went on, with the 
utmost gravity: "What Beccaria writes is contrary 
to what most people believe. Besides, after capital 
punishment was abolished in Italy, there was a 
terrible increase in serious crime. As compared with 
England, the tally in Italy was five to one. I am 
guided, in this matter, exclusively by social con- 
siderations. Was it not Saint Thomas who said that it 



would be better to cut off a gangrenous arm if 
thereby the whole body could be saved? Anyhow, I 
proceed with the utmost caution and circumspec- 
tion. Only in cases of acknowledged and exception- 
ally brutal murders is the death punishment in- 
flicted. Not very long ago, two rascals violated a 
youth and then murdered him. Both the offenders 
were sentenced to death. I had followed the trial 
with close attention. At the last moment doubt 
became insistent. One of the two offenders was a 
habitual criminal who had avowed his crime; the 
other, a much younger man, had pleaded not guilty, 
and there were no previous charges against him. 
Six hours before the execution I reprieved the^ 
younger of the two." 

"You could put that in the chapter, Advantages 
of Dictatorship/ " I said. 

His repartee was swift and couched in a tone of 

"The alternative is a state machine which grinds 
on automatically without any one having the power 
to stop its working." 

"Would you like to leave this contentious topic 
and talk about Napoleon?" 

"Go ahead!" 

"Despite our previous conversations, I am not 


clear whether you regard him as a model or as a 

He sat back in his chair, looked rather gloomy, 
and said in a restrained tone: 

"As a warning. I have never taken Napoleon as 
an examplar, for in no respect am I comparable to 
him. His activities were of a very different kind 
from mine. He put a term to a revolution, whereas 
I have begun one. The record of his life has made 
me aware of errors which are by no means easy to 
avoid/' Mussolini ticked them off on his fingers. 
"Nepotism. A contest with the papacy. A lack of 
understanding of finance and economic life. He saw 
nothing more than that after his victories there was 

a rise in securities." 

"What laid him low? The professors declare that 
he was shipwrecked on the rock of England." 

"That is nonsense," answered Mussolini. "Napo- 
leon fell, as you yourself have shown, because of the 
contradictions in his own character. At long last, 
that is what always leads to a man's downfall. He 
wanted to wear the imperial crown! He wanted to 
found a dynasty! As First Consul he was at the 
climax of his greatness. The decline began with the 
foundation of the empire. Beethoven was perfectly 
right when he withdrew the dedication of the 



Eroica. It was the wearing of the crown which con- 
tinually entangled the Corsican in fresh wars. Com- 
pare him with Cromwell The latter had a splendid 
idea; supreme power in the State and no war!** 

I had brought him to a point of outstanding im- 

"There can, then, be imperialism without an im- 

"There are half a dozen different kinds of im- 
perialism. There is really no need for all the blazons 
of empire. Indeed, they are dangerous. The more 
widely empire is diffused, the more does it forfeit its 
organic energy. All the same, the tendency towards 
imperialism is one of the elementary trends of 
human nature, an expression of the will to power. 
Nowadays we see the imperialism of the dollar; 
there is also a religious imperialism, and an artistic 
imperialism as well. In any case, these are tokens of 
the human vital energy. So long as a man lives, he 
is an imperialist. When he is dead, for him imperial- 

ism is over." 

At this moment Mussolini looked extraordinarily 
Napoleonic, reminding me of Lefevre's engraving 
of 181 5. But now the tension of his features relaxed 
and in a quieter tone he continued: 

"Naturally every imperium has its zenith. Since 



it is always the creation of exceptional men, it carries 
within it the seeds of its own decay. Like everything 
exceptional, it contains ephemeral elements. It may 
last one or two centuries, or no more than ten years. 
The will to power." 

"Is it to be kept going only by war?" I asked. 

"Not only," he answered. "Of that there can be 
no question." He became a little didactic. "Thrones 
need wars for their maintenance, but dictatorships 
can sometimes get on without them. The power of 
a nation is the resultant of numerous elements and 
these are not exclusively military. Still, I must admit 
that hitherto, as far as the general opinion is con- 
cerned, the position of a nation has greatly depended 
upon its military strength. Down to the present 
time, people have regarded the capacity for war as 
the synthesis of all the national energies.* 5 

"Till yesterday," I interpolated. "But what about 

"To-morrow?" he reiterated sceptically. "It is 
true that capacity for war-making is no longer /a 
dependable criterion of power. For to-morrow, 
therefore, there is need of some sort of international 
authority. At least, the unification of a cbhtinent. 
Now that the unity of States has been achieved, an 
attempt will be made to achieve the unity of con- 


tinents. But as far as Europe is concerned, that will 
be damnably difficult, since each nation has its own 
peculiar countenance, its own language, its own 
customs, its own types. For each nation, a certain 
percentage of these characteristics (x per cent., let 
us say) remains completely original, and this in- 
duces resistance to any sort of fusion. In America, 
no doubt, things are easier. There eight-and-forty 
States, in which the same language is spoken every- 
where and whose history is so short, can maintain 
their union." 

"But surely," I put in, "each nation possesses y 
per cent, of characteristics which are purely 

"This lies outside the power of each nation. 
Napoleon wanted to establish unity in Europe. The 
unification . of Europe was his leading ambition. 
To-day such a unification has perhaps become 
possible, but even then only on the ideal plane, as 
Charlemagne or Charles V tried to bring it about, 
from the Atlantic Ocean to the Urals." 

"Or, maybe, only to the Vistula?" 

"Yes, maybe, only to the Vistula." 

"Is it your idea that such a Europe would be under 
Fascist leadership?" 

"What is leadership?" he countered. "Here in 


Italy our Fascism is what it is. Perhaps it contains 
certain elements which other countries might 

"I always find you more moderate than most 
Fascists," said I. "You would be amazed if you knew 
what a foreigner in Rome has to listen to. Perhaps 
it was the same thing under Napoleon at the climax 
of his career. Apropos, can you explain to me why 
the Emperor never became completely wedded to 
his capital, why he always remained le fianct de 

Mussolini smiled and began his reply in French: 

fr Ses manieres n'etaient pas tres parisiennes. Per- 
haps there was a brutal strain in him. Moreover, he 
had many opponents. The Jacobins were against him 
because he had crushed the revolution; the legiti- 
hiates, because he was a usurper; the religious- 
minded, because of his contest with the papacy. It 
was only the common folk who loved him. They had 
plenty to eat under his regime, and they are more 
impressed by fame than are the educated classes. 
You must remember that fame is a matter not of 
logic, but of sentiment/* 

"You speak rather sympathetically of Napoleon! 
It would seem that your respect for him has not 
diminished during your own tenure of power, in 



which you have become enabled to understand his 
situation from personal experience. 5 * 

"No, on the contrary, my respect for him has 

"When he was still a youthful general, he said 
that an empty throne always tempted him to take his 
seat upon it. What do you think of that?" 

Mussolini opened his eyes wide, as he does when 
in an ironical mood, but at the same time he smiled. 

"Since the days when Napoleon was emperor," he 
said, "thrones have become much less alluring than 
they were/* 

"True enough/* I replied. "Nobody wants to be 
a king nowadays. When, a little while ago, I said to 
King Fuad of Egypt, 'Kings must be loved, but 
dictators dreaded,' he exclaimed, 'How I should like 
to be a dictatotl^Does history^give any record of a 
usurper who was loved?*' 

Mussolini, whose changes of countenance always 
foreshadow his answers (unless he wants to conceal 
his thoughts) became earnest of mien once more. 
His expression of sustained energy relaxed, so that 
he looked younger than usual. After a pause, and 
even then hesitatingly, he rejoined: 

"Julius Caesar, perhaps. The assassination of 
Caesar jps a misfortune for mankind." He added 



softly, "I love Caesar. He was unique in that he 
combined the will of the warrior with the genius 
of the sage. At bottom he was a philosopher who 
saw everything sub specie eternitatis. It is true that 
he had a passion for fame, but his ambition did not 
cut him off from human kind." 

"After all, then, a dictator can be loved?" 
"Yes," answered Mussolini with renewed decisive- 
ness. "Provided that the masses fear him at the same 
time. The crowd loves strong men. The crowd is 
like a woman." 





I entered, I saw from a distance that Mussolini 
was fluttering the pages of a newspaper- "When 
I had crossed the ocean of the great hall and had 
reached the harbour of his writing table, he tore 
off a half -sheet covered with pictures, handed it 
to me, and said sarcastically: 

"Look! New tractors, only tractors; no big guns! 
Please make a note of it!" 

I saw, indeed, an illustration of a long train of 
these modern elephants, slowly advancing, and said: 

"If I am to make people believe that you are giving 
away pictures of tractors, I must ask you to sign 
your name at the foot!" 

He smiled, did what I requested, and handed me 
back the picture as a memento. 

"All the same," I said, "it seems to me that you 
are the man for big guns. That was why, the other 
day, you referred to your youth as having been that 
of a Communist. It is one of the paradoxes 'of your 
development, explicable enough, however, that you, 



a renegade from the most pacifist of all political 
parties, and after spending your prime amongst 
cannon, should now turn back towards tractors. 
Your Christian name, indeed, should give you a 
push in this direction!" 

He was silent but amused, while I went on: x 

"Is it possible that you do not believe in the magi- 
cal power of a name? Do you not find it strange 
that a blacksmith should have named his two sons 
after two well-named disturbers of the peace?" 

"It did not do my brother much good," answered 
Mussolini. "He lacked the passionate impetus of 
that Arnaldo after whom he was called. A revolu- 
tionist is born, not made/* 

"Do you think there is any notable difference be- 
tween the composition of a modern revolutionist 
and that of one of earlier days?" 

"The form has changed. One condition, how- 
ever, has been requisite through all the ages 
courage, physical as well as moral. For the rest, 
every revolution creates new forms, new myths 
and new rites; and the would-be revolutionist, 
while using old traditions, must refashion them. 
He must create new festivals, new gestures, new 
forms, which will themselves in turn become tra- 
ditional. The airplane festival is new to-day. In 


half a century it will be encrusted with the patina 
of tradition," 

"Don't you think that many young men are only 
anarchists because they have no chance of becom- 
ing rulers?" 

"Of course," he replied; "eyery anarchist is a dic- 
tator who has missed fire." 

"But since you feel that you yourself were edu- 
cated by the revolutionary spirit of your youth, by 
rebelliousness and originality, why is it that to-day 
you enforce obedience and order upon the young 
and construct a new bureaucracy, you who made 
mock of the old one?" 

"You are mistaken," he tranquilly objected. "In 
our fathers' days, governments had not a sufficient 
sense of the State. Besides, new times have brought 
new tasks for the nation; if there is to be a maximum 
of efficiency, there must be a maximum of order. 
Here in Italy we have realised as much as is real- 
isable in the present phase of development. As 
regards bureaucracy, I admit the force of your 
criticism, but bureaucracy is inevitable. Concern- 
ing order, we have to do with historical necessities. 
We are living in the third act of the drama. There 
comes a moment 




"It ought to make you long-suffering when you 
remember your own imprisonment, and when those 
who used to be your friends have become your 

"Well, I have not troubled those of my comrades 
who have ceased to march in line with me." 

"It must be difficult," I went on, "for a revolu- 
tionist, one who acts outside the law, to impose 
limits upon himself. In the year 1911, when you 
were being prosecuted, you said that sabotage must 
have a moral purpose; it was permissible to cut tele- 
graph wires but not to derail a neutral train. That 
remark of yours made a great impression on me. 
How are we to draw the line between permissible 
and unpermissible revolution?" 

"That is a moral question which each revolu- 
tionist must decide for himself." 

I seized the opportunity of asking him about his 
plans in those pre-war days. 

"If, in the year 1913, you had been successful 
in the revolt at Milan, what would have been the 

"Then? The republic!" came the reply, short and 

"But how do these ideas comport with a nation- 

alism which was already a fully developed creed?" 

"Surely a republican can just as well be a nation- 
alist as a monarchist can be perhaps better. Are 
there not plenty of examples?" 

"But if |iationalism be independent of forms of 
government, and also of questions of class, then it 
must also be independent of questions of race. 
Do you really believe, as some ethnologists con- 
tend, that there are still pure races in Europe? Do 
you believe that racial unity is a requisite guarantee 
for vigorous nationalist aspirations? Are you not 
exposed to the danger that the apologists of Fascism 
will (like Professor Blank) talk the same nonsense 
about the Latin races as northern pedants have 
talked about the "noble blonds/ and thereby in- 
crease rival pugnacities?" 

Mussolini grew animated, for this is a matter 
upon which, owing no doubt to the exaggeration 
of some of the Fascists, he feels that he is likely to 
be misunderstood. 

"Of course there are no pure races left; not even 

""*"* , , , ,,,,!,) 1 ... * *''' "" '' 

the Jews have kept their blood unmingled. Suc- 
cessful crossings have often promoted the energy 
and the beauty of a nation. Race! It is a feeling, not 
a reality; ninety-five per cent.* at least, is a feeling. 



Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically 
pure races can be shown to exist to-day. Amusingly 
enough, not one of those who have proclaimed the 
'nobility' of the Teutonic race was himself a Teuton. 
Gobineau was a Frenchman; Houston Chamberlain, 
an Englishman; Woltmann, a Jew; Lapogue, an- 
other Frenchman. Chamberlain actually declared 
that Rome was the capital of chaos. No such doc- 
trine will ever find wide acceptance here in Italy. 
Professor Blank, whom you quoted just now, is a 
man with more poetic imagination than science in 
his composition. National pride has no need of the 
delirium of race." 

"That is the best argument against anti-Semi- 
tism," said I. 

"Anti-Semitism does not exist in Italy," answered 
Mussolini. "Italians of Jewish birth have shown 
themselves good citizens, and they fought bravely 
in the war. Many of them occupy leading positions 
in the universities, in the army, in the banks. Quite 
a number of them are generals; Modena, the com- 
mandant of Sardinia, is a general of the artillery." 

"Nevertheless," I put in, "Italian refugees in 
Paris use it as an argument against you that you 
have forbidden the admission of Jews to the 



"The accusation is absurd. Since my day, there 
has been no Jew suitable for admission. Now Delia 
Seta is a candidate; a man of great learning, the lead- 
ing authority on prehistoric Italy." 

"If you are falsely accused in this matter, you 
suffer in good company. In Germany there is a 
preposterous fable that Bismarck and Goethe were 
prejudiced against Jews. Without any justification, 
the French speak of a certain anomaly as f le vice 
allemand* The term might be more reasonably ap- 
plied to anti-Semitism/* 

"How do you explain that?" asked Mussolini. 

"Whenever things go awry in Germany, the Jews 
are blamed for it. Just now we are in exceptionally 
bad case!" 

"Ah, yes, the scapegoat!" 

I returned, to the wider question of race. 

"If, then, neither race nor the form of govern- 
ment accounts for nationalism, are we to attribute 
it to community of speech? But ancient Rome, like 
other empires, was a State in which many tongues 
were spoken; and in modern history it has never 
seemed to me that multiplicity of languages was a 
source of weakness to a State. The Habsburg do- 
minion fell, but Switzerland flourishes." 

"I do not think that unity of speech is decisive 


in this matter," said Mussolini. "Austria did not 
perish because it was a polyglot realm, but because 
it was a constrained unification of many conquered 
peoples under one sceptre, whereas in Switzerland 
those who speak various tongues have spontaneously 
combined to form a nationality. Switzerland was 
able to maintain her neutrality throughout the 
Great War because the French-speaking element, 
inclining towards one side, and the German-speak- 
ing element, inclining towards the other, were 
fairly balanced. I regard Switzerland as a very im- 
portant link in the chain of European States, for, 
owing to the very fact that she is a composite, she 
is able to mitigate much of the friction between the 
two great rivals on her frontier." 

"If you are as little concerned as we are about 
the diversity of tongues, I presume you are not 
an advocate of a universal language?" 

"A sort of universal dialect is in course of forma- 
tion," he rejoined. "Technical advances and sport 
are bringing it into being. But Esperanto would 
make all the national literatures obsolete and what 
would the world be without poesy?" 

"Nevertheless, here in Italy I see flagrant con- 
tradictions. In your youth you declaimed against 
the Austrian Government, which forbade the joiners 



of Bozen to use their native Italian. 'If a language is 
forced on us, we shall answer force with force.' 
This phrase, penned by a Socialist, that is to say, 
by a citizen of the world, cannot be excelled as a 
manifestation of national feeling. Well, I cannot but 
ask myself, and cannot but ask you,- why to-day 
you are not behaving better than the Austrians 
did then. "Why, in this respect, likewise, do you not 
step forward into the twentieth century?" 

"I am stepping forward into the twentieth cen- 
tury," replied Mussolini with perfect calm. "The 
people of Southern Tyrol are not being coerced. 
One hundred and eighty thousand of them are Ger- 
mans, and there are also a great many Slav immi- 
grants, so that the so-called racial purity does not 
exist there. If we teach them Italian, it is in their 
own interest as Italian citizens. Nevertheless, they 
have German newspapers, German magazines, Ger- 
man theatres. We do nothing whatever to cut the 
thread of their German descent. If they lived in the 
centre of Italy instead of on the frontier, we should 
trouble them still less. Of course, a unified speech 
is one of the elements of national power. Govern- 
ments have always recognised this and all of them 
have therefore done their utmost to unify the 
national speech." 



"You are talking after the manner of the nine- 
teenth century," I said. "Before the war, the policy 
of the German empire in Poland and in Alsace was as 
shortsighted as are to-day the German and the Polish 
policy in the same territories. The authorities did 
not or do not feel sure of themselves. What about 
the opposite case, when you want immigrants to 
retain their national feelings? Do you think it really 
important that Italians living in America should 
continue to speak their mother tongue? In Chicago 
I had a talk with a group of Italians and they spoke 
to me in English." 

"You are making a mistake," he said. "We con- 
sider it a matter of principle to ask our fellow 
countrymen to be loyal to the State in which they 
live. If they acquire full citizenship in the spiritual 
sense as well as in the material, they count for some- 
thing; but if they hold themselves aloof from their 
adoptive land, they remain helots. Since we began 
to advocate the policy of assimilation, many Italian- 
born citizens have attained high positions over 

"You hold, then," I inquired, "that in matters of 
language and of race, too, there is no such thing as 
an inevitable fate rousing the nations to mutual 



"Fate!" he cried mockingly. "Statesmen only 
talk of fate when they have blundered/* 

"A fourth reason for nationalism," I went on, 
continuing my analysis, "seems to me to exist uni- 
versally in what are called 'the demands of history/ 
For instance, you once spoke of a colony which be- 
longed to classical Rome." 

"That was only a literary flourish," said Musso- 
lini. "I was speaking of Lybia, which was then un- 
peopled. If the government in modern Rome wanted 
to claim the territory colonised by classical Rome, 
it would have to demand the return of Portugal, 
Switzerland, Glasgow, Pannonia, and, indeed, all 
western, central, and southern Europe, to the 
Italian flag." 

When making such statements, which in print 
se^m obviously ironical, Mussolini remains per- 
fectly serious, and because he therefore wishes to 
avoid any mannerisms which would give an abstract 
flavour to what he means to be concrete. 

By a transition whose details I have forgotten, 
I passed on to discuss the physiognomical results of 
nationalist education. 

"It seems to me that Fascism is changing the faces 
of the Italians. I am doubtful if this is a matter for 
congratulation. Goethe said that the finger of God 



was more plainly visible in an Italian countenance 
than in a German." 

"There is a moral reason for the change," said 
Mussolini. "Our faces are becoming more tensed. 
The will to action modifies the features; even sports 
and physical exercise induce changes. That is why 
a handicraftsman looks so different from a factory 

"Your head," I rejoined, "has been compared with 
that of Colleoni. Like such comparisons in general, 
it is only applicable from time to time. You Italians 
know full well that the condottieri were not con- 
dottieri all the time. Montefeltre was a thinker!" 

"Yes," replied Mussolini, "the condottiere is not 
a mere brute. Once in his life, perhaps, he may have 
been a savage beast. In general, however, these men 
were no more savage than their contemporaries. It 
was the times that were savage." 

"Does the comparison to which I have just re- 
ferred please you?" I asked. 

Mussolini looked at me with a penetrating glance, 
thrust forward his lower jaw, and made no answer. 
At that moment he certainly did look like Colleoni. 




the Air Ministry, Balbo had been showing me 
the whole of his realm, literally from the cellar, 
where (as in the case of a great steamship) the work- 
ing parts of the big machine were installed, to the 
roof on which the officials played tennis in the eve- 
ning. The passion for constructive enterprise, which 
to-day has mastered even the Italian youth, is here 
intertwined with their inborn feeling for beauty. 
This building, the latest and the finest in the coun- 
try, an edifice of which they are all proud, is half 
Russian, half American. In Moscow, I saw a couple 
of thousand persons feeding together as practically, 
as quickly, and as hygienically as here, where the 
luncheon half -hour was rendered agreeable with 
music, and where the walls were adorned with cari- 
catures of the air service. But in Moscow there 
had been three classes of meals, at different prices, 
whereas in Rome all the members of the staff, from 
the ministers of state down to the youngest of the 
secretaries sat down together to eat the same food, 



though they paid a sum ranging from two to seven 
lire proportional to their respective salaries. Balbo 
was prouder of the pneumatic system, by means of 
which he was able to send hot coffee in thermos 
flasks to every room of the building, than he was 
of his flight to South America. 

"He seems to me half a poet," said I, when I was 
telling Mussolini of my visit. "The walls of his office 
are decorated with oracular sentences." 

"Most airmen are poets as well," said Mussolini. 
"He has written a book and is a man of all-round 

"What a pity," I remarked, "that in your Air 
Ministry ninety per cent, of their energies are de- 
voted to war purposes and only ten per cent, to 
civilian undertakings. The delight in technical ad- 
vances is to-day perpetually dashed by this thought." 

"You see spooks everywhere," he said derisively. 

"If I do, it is because I cannot forget the experi- 
ences of the war years," 

"I have read your book," answered Mussolini, 
" 'July 1914,' in which you describe the follies and 
the crimes of a handful of statesmen of both parties. 
Your account is fully justified. Nevertheless, be- 
yond (or, if you like, beneath) diplomatic intrigues, 
I discern prof ounder causes of the war. You your- 



self say that it is your aim to deal only with July 
and to ignore the faults of earlier days. In truth the 
war had become inevitable. There had been too great 
an accumulation of motives and of tensions; the 
drama had to be played out. They had conjured up 
the devil and could not but let him wreak his will." 

"And yet/* I rejoined, "you yourself have writ- 
ten that the unscrupulousness of the European 
governments before the war was a disgrace to man- 
kind. As late as July, 1914, you were still exclaim- 
ing: *Abasso la guerra!' I know that only fanciful 
ideologists will complain of you for changing your 
views. One who throughout those multifarious hap- 
penings remained consistently of the same mind 
only showed himself to be a man in whom fixed ideas 
prevailed, notwithstanding the power of realities. 
What really concerns us to-day is to understand the 
motives of those who made the war. Yesterday 
Marchese X., one of the negotiators of the Peace of 
Versailles, informed me that hunger was the main 
reason why Italy entered the war, for your coun- 
try, he said, was in this respect troubled far more 
than Greece by the British fleet. At first there was 
no interference with the food supply of Greece/* 

Laying his arms on the table, Mussolini leaned 
forward. This is his combative attitude, but when 



he assumes it he is collected and resolute, self- 
controlled and clear-minded. 

"The motive of hunger," he said, "played its part; 
but it was not decisive. No doubt, for purely geo- 
graphical reasons, the position of our peninsula was 
a dangerous one. But in this matter, too, my 
thoughts are revolutionary. The declaration of neu- 
trality was the first revolutionary demonstration 
against the government which, on theoretical 
grounds, considered itself bound to the Central 
Powers. You know all about Count Berchtold's in- 
fringement of the treaties/* 

I replied: 

"If, at that time, Italy was inspired by so pro- 
found a sense of allegiance to France, why was it 
that no one remembered that at Villafranca, in 
1859, France robbed Italy of half the fruits of vic- 
tory, whereas it was Prussia which, through the 
wars of 1866 and 1870 against Austria and France 
respectively, first established the foundations which 
made the unification of Italy possible." 

He nodded and answered: 

"What you say is perfectly true. But there were 
a number of opposing moral considerations,, the in- 
vasion above all. On the other hand, at that period, 
France was greatly loved, and French propaganda 


could make play with democracy, the Freemasons, 
and other elements. More especially, the Habsburgs 
were detested. If_was_against.-Austria -rather -than 
against Germany that we came into the war. Vari- 
ous trends were at work coalescing to make a mighty 
current. The nationalists wanted expansion; the 
democrats wanted Trent; the syndicalists wanted 
war in the hope that it would lead to a revolution. 
That was my own position at this juncture. For the 
first time, the great majority of the nation was 
actively opposed to the parliamentarians and the 
politicians. I made common cause with persons of 
the latter way of thinking." 

"Could not you have gained your end at less 
cost?" I asked. "When the Socialists in Berlin and in 
Paris rallied to the side of their respective war- 
making governments, their conduct was, in point of 
principle, unpardonable, but it was comprehensible 
enough, for in each country the general belief was 
that the other had been the aggressor. Italy alone 
was in the fortunate position of being able to main- 
tain an armed neutrality, which would have enabled 
her, with an intact army, by mere threats to com- 
pel the exhausted victors to make extensive con- 
cessions to her at the end of the war. Why did not 
Italy adopt this course? There was a great deal of 



talk at that time about national honour, and you 
yourself often used the phrase. "Was it 'national 
honour* which induced you to take up the sword?" 

"Nobody likes a neutral," said Mussolini, "but this 
was no more than a primary, a sentimental, motive. 
jThe most important factor was our conviction that, 
no matter which side was victorious, we should, as 
neutrals, find ourselves at the close of the war faced 
by a coalition. Germany as victor would never have 
forgiven us for our neutrality; and, had we stood 
aside, at Paris the Entente would have treated us 
even more contemptuously than she treated the 
Central Powers, We had to reckon with the possi- 
bility that it would be necessary to take up arms 
against a combination of States, war-wearyjitcfligh 
they might be. My third motive was a personal one. 
I wanted to bring about the rebirth oiXtalv and 
I have fulfilled my end." 

"But it was your own party," I objected, which 
had annulled or at any rate weakened, the nation- 
alist spirit of Italy! Well, you left the party and 
declared yourself free. Did that mean free from 
dogma or free from party?" 

"Free from party," he replied. "But even as an 
ex-Socialist I cannot accept your statement of the 
case. However it may have been in other lands, here 



in Italy Socialism was a unifying factor. All Italian 
historians have recognised this. The Socialists of Italy 
were advocates of one idea and of one nation. From 
1892, when they cut adrift from the anarchists at 
the Congress of Genoa, down till 1911, they battled 
on behalf of a united Italy. Then came internal dis- 
putes and conflicting trends and therewith the de- 
cline of the movement began. It was at this juncture 
that I became convinced of the need for a great 
stirring of the whole people to consolidate the moral 
unity of our nation with or without Socialism/* 

"But supposing/' I inquired, "that the German 
and the French Socialists had taken a firm stand 
against the war, or had at least voted against the 
war credits, what would have been your atti- 

"In that case the whole situation would have been 
different," he exclaimed. "Had the French and the 
German Socialists taken such a line, everything 
would have run a different course." 

"What did you think about the murder of 

Mussolini pondered a while before answering. 

"I knew him personally," he said. "When he was 
assassinated, I looked upon his death as one of those 
fatalities which modify the trend of events." 



"Would Italy have remained neutral but for 

"There were three of us working towards the 
same end," said Mussolini. "D'Annunzio, who had 
years before aroused enthusiasm for the fleet by his 
Odi navali and now made a fervent appeal to the 
university students and to the Italian youth in gen- 
eral; Corridono, the working-class leader, who sub- 
sequently fell at the front; and I myself, who trans- 
formed the Socialist Party. 3 * 

"I have been told that when the Party expelled 
you, you shouted, in answer to the hissing and invec- 
tive which arose from all parts of the hall, 'You hate 
me because you still love me!' That was a fine saying. 
I suppose it really happened?" 

He nodded assent and thereupon I questioned him 
once more about his early nationalist leanings, fie 

"As long ago as 1911, when I was still a member 
of the Socialist Party, I wrote that the Gordian knot 
of Trent could be cut only by the sword. At the 
same date I declared that war is usually the prelude 
to revolution. It was therefore easy for me, when 
the Great War broke out, to predict the Russian 
and the German revolutions." 

"You were under the spell of the notion that there 


were 'two Germanys' and believed in all the tales 
of atrocities!" 

"Yes," he agreed. "I continued to admire German 
literature and music but at the same time I believed 
in the story of the Belgian horrors. Subsequently, 
when they were refuted, I publicly acknowledged 
as much in the Senate, to the astonishment of cer- 
tain Belgians. Such horrors as occurred were simply 
the horrors of the war and not German atrocities in 
particular. An Italian pastor, a Protestant, domiciled 
in the United States, was sent to Belgium during the 
war to collect evidence regarding these alleged Ger- 
man atrocities. He wrote me a remarkable letter, to 
the effect that he had done his utmost to find sub- 
stantiation, for this was needed to use in war propa- 
ganda. 'Unfortunately, although I spent months 
upon the search, I could not discover any atroci- 

ties.' " 

"It seems, then," I concluded, "that you waged 
your own war and made your own revolution. 
Both of them with success. In the sense of Nietzsche, 
a sense which combines your views and mine, let 
me ask you what was your predominant motive? 
There was little to complain of in Austrian rule 
in the Tridentino, and you had always been a sav- 
age critic of the Italian bureaucracy. The only way 


in which I can account for your forcible severance 
from your past is by supposing that you wanted to 
govern in accordance with your particular fancy. 
Is it true that your main purpose was to refashion 
Italy in accordance with your own vision?" 

"That was it,** he answered decisively. 

"I am glad to have your acknowledgment. Most 
men would be afraid to make it and would wrap 
up their purposes in a cloud of phraseology/* 

He eyed me gloomily and said, "I have never tried 
to prove an alibi." 


JVLuSSOLINI looked pale and out of humour in 
the lamplight. He ruffled the newspaper in his hand 
as I came to the end of the twenty yards' promenade 
from the door to his desk. This was not unen- 
cumbered as usual, for on it there lay a thick pile 
of documents. I knew that the two men who had 
left him a minute or two before my arrival were 
bank directors, so I said: 

"You are tired this evening. Would you rather 
postpone our conversation?" 

"I have had to study the balance sheet of the 
Banca di Roma," he said, resting his chin on his 
hand. "Never mind. Let's have our talk. It will be 
a relaxation." 

The strain he had been undergoing was manifest 
in the curtness of his subsequent rejoinders. I in- 

"Had you not many such moments of fatigue, of 
discouragement, during the war? In your articles, 
especially in the later ones, you write so bitterly 



about fraternity that I read into them disillusion- 
ment concerning all that happened, even the vic- 
tory. In one of them you said that the germs of 
decay are hidden in a victorious nation. That remark 
is rather too philosophic for a man of action. 5 * 

He pulled down the corners of his mouth and 
stared at me vacantly as he replied: 

"Was it not enough to make a man weary when 
these symptoms of decay persisted for years after 
the victory? Every nation engaged in the war made 
heroic efforts; but it seemed to us here in Italy as 
if we were being deprived of the reward of victory/* 

"I can understand that you felt yourselves to 
have been cheated in Paris/' said I. "But why did you 
and your adherents speak of a Fiume f sacrificato, 9 
merely because your friends of yesterday, the Allies, 
continued to hold the place? A man who at that 
time was a prominent figure said to me that Fiume 
was only thrust into the foreground by the refer- 
endum, and that the sole reason why Orlando, the 
arch-parliamentarian, made such a to-do about it 
was that it had become a popular catchword. Why 
should Fiume have developed into a sort of holy of 
holies just after the war, as if it had played a great 
part in Italian history and civilisation like Florence 
or Bologna? 3 * 



He continued to gaze into vacancy and said: 

"You are wrong in thinking that that was a mere 
matter of parliamentary finesse. Fiume was an 
Italian town, as dear to us as any other. In Fiume, 
just as in Trieste and Trent, there were Irredentists 
who wanted their native city to become part of 

I alluded to the fact that the number of inhabi- 
tants of Fiume who had acclaimed D'Annunzio's 
raid had, after all, not been very large. 

"He was idolised by the people! Naturally such a 
situation as arose there tends to become oppressive 
after twelve months or so. Still, there can be no 
doubt whatever that we owe Fiume to D'Annunzio." 

He said this bluntly, without sign of emotion, as 
one who utters a historical truth about which there 
can be no question. I went on to speal of the peace, 
quoted some of the utterances of the delegates to 
Versailles, and proceeded to inquire: 

"Do you blame Orlando for the losses of Italy at 
the Peace Conference? Was his character flawed? 
According to certain Fascists, he was one of the 
most unsatisfactory of mortals." 

"The diplomatic situation was unfavourable. 
Other men than he might have made a mess of 
things in Paris/* 



"Why, then, was the feeling in Italy so bitter? 
Considering the victors in the war objectively, it 
can certainly be maintained that Italy was the only 
one who not merely conquered her chief enemy, 
but annihilated that enemy/* 

"We know that." 

Seeing that I could get no farther along this line, 
I returned to the question of the Socialist attitude 
during the war, hoping that that would provide a 

"Really your own case resembled that of your 
country," said I. "You were the only man who anni- 
hilated his own particular foe. But what does that 
prove against the system, if during the years from 
1918 to 1921 the socialist leaders were weaklings? 
Were not some of your generals incompetent during 
the war, and yet your troops were victorious?" 

"Some. But still there was a mass movement!" 

"And was this mass movement to be fought only 
with its own means? The burning of Avanti, the 
destruction of the telegraphic apparatus were not 
these Russian tactics?" 

"Much the same. Our tactics were decidedly Rus- 

sian/ 3 

This curt, military style of answering was unusual 
in him, but to-day it was a manifestation of fatigue, 


and perhaps in conformity with the military trend 
of his thoughts at the moment. I tried to give the 
conversation a new turn. 

"Is it true that in the year 1921 you were in- 
clined to renounce the leadership of your youthful 

"No," he snapped, as ungraciously as before. "I 
told them they must accept my ideas or I should 
quit. It was necessary to transform a mob into a 
party. 55 

"Why did you hold back for a year when many 
of your followers wanted to take instant action?" 

"It would have been a mistake/ 5 

"I have been told by a friend of mine that when, 
at that date, you visited the Wilhelmstrasse, you said: 
*At this juncture there are only two parties in Italy, 
myself and the King! 5 55 

"That's all right. 55 

"And when subsequently, in the autumn of 1922, 
you sent your conditions to the Facta administra- 
tion, were you confident that he would reject 
them? 55 

"Certainly. Wanted to gain time. 55 

"What do you think of generals who break their 
oath of allegiance to an established government in 
order to make a revolution and set up a new one 


like the four who participated in your March on 

"In certain historical crises that must happen. 55 

"Your proclamation was printed before you set 
out. Hadn't you the feeling that you were fore- 
stalling things?" 

"There wasn't a moment to lose." 

"How do you account for the fact that there 
was no resistance to your March on Rome? It was 
just like what happened in Germany on November 
9, 1918." 

"Same reasons; obsolete system." 

"I have been told that the King had already signed 
an ordinance declaring a state of siege." 

"The ministers had decided on this course, but the 
King refused to sign, even when pressed to do so a 
second time." 

"Suppose the King had agreed, and a state of siege 
had been declared, would you have felt sure of 
victory even in the case of resistance?" 

"We held the valley of the Po and it is there that 
the fate of Italy has always been decided." 

"How could you, a soldier, be content during 
those last weeks to stay so far from the centre of 

"I was in command at Milan." 


"When you received the King's telegram asking 
you to take over the government, were you sur- 
prised or had you expected it?" 


"When on your way to Rome, were you in the 
mood of an artist who is about to begin his work, 
or in that of a prophet who is fulfilling a mission?" 

"Artist/ 9 

He was too laconic for my taste, and so, in the 
hope of bringing about a little relaxation, I had re- 
course to an anecdote. 

"Do you remember what Napoleon said to his 
brother when they entered the Tuileries after the 
coup d'etat? 'Well, here we are. Let's see to it that 
we stay here!' " 

It was a palpable hit. Mussolini laughed. The spell 
the bank directors had laid upon his nerves was 
broken. His customary serenity had returned, so 
that he could speak once more in his usual voice and 
formulate his views at reasonable length. When I 
went on to question him about his personal, his 
mental preparation for the role of leadership, he 
thrust the thick balance sheet aside, laid his arms on 
the table in front of him, and then became reminis- 

"I was prepared as far as broad lines were con- 



earned, but not in matters of detail. To begin with, 
I was overburdened with work. Within forty-eight 
hours I had to get fifty-two thousand revolutionary- 
soldiers out of the capital and to see to it that these 
excited young men were held in leash. During the 
first days the most important affair was to keep the 
machinery running. But I, who had to do this, 
lacked first-hand knowledge of the machinery of 
administration. I promptly dismissed some of the 
leading officials, but I left a great many of them 
where they were. It was incumbent upon me to 
convince the most important civil servants, during 
the very first weeks, that we were not to be trifled 
with. They were a danger to me but at the outset I 
had to trust them." 

"That," I said, "was what took all the fire out of 
the German revolution. The old permanent officials 
were stronger than the new leaders and humbugged 
them. But how does one begin a new regime? Is it 
like setting up a monument, or building a house in 
the forest, when one begins by clearing a lot of 
trees to make room?" 

"That is an interesting simile," he said alertly. 
"Most revolutions begin with a hundred per cent., 
but little by little the new spirit evaporates, becomes 
diluted with the old. Concessions are made, now 


here, now there; and before long your revolution 
has declined to fifty per cent., or less. 55 

"That is what happened in Germany/* I inter- 

"We did it the reverse way. I began with fifty per 
cent. "Why? Because history had taught me that the 
courage of most revolutionists begins to fail after 
the first alarums and excursions. I started with a 
coalition and it was six months before I dismissed 
the Catholics. In other countries, revolutionists have 
by degrees become more complaisant; but here in 
Italy, year by year, we have grown more radical, 
more stubborn. Not until last year, for instance, did 
I insist upon the university professors swearing 
allegiance. I took the democrats as I found them and 
I gave the Socialists the opportunity of participating 
in the government. Turati, who died yesterday, 
would perhaps have agreed to this, but Baldesi and 
other men of his sort obstinately refused their 
chances. Since I had planned a complete renovation 
of my country, I had to accustom it gradually to the 
new order of things and to make use of the out- 
standing forces of the old order. The Russians were 
in a different position. The old order had utterly 
collapsed and they could clear the ground com- 
pletely in order to build their house in the forest. 


But where should we have been to-day if I had set 
out by making a clean sweep?" 

He was full of vivacity once more, all signs of 
fatigue having vanished. 

"Your enemies gave you a helping hand/* I said, 
"by marching out of parliament. I suppose that 
suited your book and that you had looked forward 
to it?" 

"Of course!" he exclaimed. "They had with- 
drawn to the Sacred Mount, and that is a hill which 
brings misfortune to all who climb it." 

"In the army," I said, "in the course of the rev- 
olution you have made, did you find more good 
will and talent to begin with or later?" 

"Later. To-day people have faith in it!" 

"Did you anticipate this? Did you expect to sit 
ten years or longer at this table?" 

He made a whimsical grimace, rolling his eyes as 
if to inspire fear, but laughing at the same time as 
if to counteract the impression. Then he said, in low 
tones, and assuming a playful air of mystery: 

"I came here in order to stay as long as possible." 






JS equanimity, his imperturbable patience, 
had been fully restored, when, next day at the same 
hour, I found him at his writing table. In the interim 
I had been mentally rehearsing the activities in 
which I supposed him to have been engaged, the 
ordinary routine of his daily life. When staying with 
friends in the country I have sometimes asked my- 
self what has been happening to them between our 
good-night and our greeting when we meet next 
day at luncheon. The same general aspect, the same 
clothing, and yet each one of us has grown a day 
older and has had intervening experiences, perhaps 
ordinary, perhaps extraordinary. Mussolini, whom 
now for several days in succession I had encountered 
in his office, wearing the same suit of clothes, was 
engaged in multifarious activities during the period 
that elapsed between our interviews; yet each time 
he seemed, as it were, screwed into the place where he 
awaited me. An editorial office, with its comings and 


goings and its lively discussions, is a much more 
animated place than a ministerial office. Perhaps no 
chance experience, nothing unexpected, had be- 
fallen him. These reflections influenced my method 
of approach. 

"Although your rise to power has brought you 
many advantages, it must have cost you a good deal 
as well. It must have cost you the pleasure of living 
in a familiar home, the power to walk whithersoever 
you please in the evening after an exciting day, the 
perpetual stimulus of opposition, the enthralling 
freedom of being unfair on occasion. At the same 
time it must have entailed upon you the duties of a 
representative position and the difficulties that 
attach to a man who can never escape the public 
gaze. I have been told that soon after the March on 
Rome you penned an effective phrase: 'One can 
move from a tent into a palace if one is ready, in 
case of need, to return to the tent/ Still, it seems 
to me that such a change of habit must be difficult 
for a man of forty or thereabouts." 

"The change was easier than you imagine," an- 
swered Mussolini. "I should have liked to go on 
living in Milan; but Rome, a city to which I had be- 
fore paid only occasional visits, exerted an emotional 
charm. This historical soil has a magic of its own. 


The fact that I am at work in Rome, that I live in 
Rome, has during the last ten years given me food 
for much thought. "When I want privacy, I have the 
garden of the Villa Torlonia, where I live; and the 
fact that I keep a fine horse there is the chief boon 
which the rise to power has bestowed upon my 
private life. Nor have I changed my daily habits 
much. I have become more temperate than ever, 
more inclined towards vegetarianism, and I rarely 
drink wine. Still, these habits are not with me a 
matter of strict principle and I actually encourage 
the drinking of wine in Italy. I have always 
been averse to the distractions of what is termed 
'society. 5 When I have been working all day with 
others at this table, I have a better use than 'social 
diversions* for my evenings, in which I go on work- 
ing alone, and for my nights, when I need sleep. I 
have always been an orderly and meticulously 
regular sort of man. "When I was a newspaper editor, 
my writing table was just as tidy as this one, and 
every minute of my day was planned out so that I 
could cram as much work into it as possible." 

"You describe a Goethean technique," I replied. 
"One of the ambassadors in Rome recently said to 
me, somewhat naively, e The Duce has an easier time 
than we; he does not need to go into society. Had I 


his advantage in this respect, I could get through 
much more work than I do/ " 

He laughed, and went on: 

"I was prepared for my present position by a life 
that has always been lonely. I cannot live in any 
other way. My only trouble has been that I have 
always been sensitive to bad weather. But you are 
right in this respect, that reasons of state tend to 
make the statesman's life a narrow one. Just because 
they are reasons of State!" 

"It is strange, 5 ' I said, "how many things the 
wielding of power teaches a man to renounce." 

"Like every passion," he said gently. 

"Which passion is stronger, the revolutionary 
or the constructive?" 

"Both are interesting," he answered swiftly. "It 
depends, moreover, upon the age at which one is 
engaged upon revolution or construction, as the 
case may be. A man of forty or fifty will incline 
rather towards constructive work, especially when 
he has had a revolutionary past/* 

"In that respect," said I, "your career differs from 
those which it otherwise most resembles. Bismarck, 
like Victor Emmanuel, did not reach his Rome so 
early as you. To both of them the great opportunity 
came after the years in which a man has done the 


bulk of his work. But what you say about the con- 
structive trend in middle age makes it all the more 
difficult to understand why, after ten years of con- 
struction, you Fascists are still talking of a per- 
manent revolution. It reminds me of Trotsky's 

"The reasons are different, however. We need to 
speak of permanent revolution because the phrase 
exerts a mystical influence upon the masses. It is 
stimulating, too, for persons of higher intelligence. 
When we talk of permanent revolution, we imply 
that the times are exceptional, and we give the man 
in the street a feeling that he is participating in an 
extraordinary movement. The actual fact is that 
construction began right away. Not that it was easy! 
Thousands of ardent soldiers had to be reconverted 
into orderly citizens. A revolution can indeed be 
made without the aid of soldiers but it cannot be 
made in defiance of soldiers. It is possible when the 
army is neutral but not when the army is antago- 
nistic. Besides, during the first year, I had to rid my- 
self of a hundred and fifty thousand Fascists in 
order to make the party a more concentrated force. 
Not until later could I begin to train an elite in 
order to transform crude force into orderly gov- 




"Where did you encounter the greatest resistance 
in this respect? Did the nobility prove refractory?" 

Whenever a fresh theme of the sort was in- 
troduced a theme which he must have rehearsed 
a hundred times he would thrust forward his 
chin for a moment, like a conductor using his baton, 
and would speak more quickly than usual. 

"Resistance came mainly from the upper classes, 
but not from the 1 aristocracy. Our titled families 
proved friendly. Here in Italy they do not form a 
caste apart, like the Prussian Junkers, but want to be 
on good terms with the people. You will see Prince 
Colonna, for instance, talking familiarly with his 

I spoke of his sometime comrades, asked him 
whether he had been able to find suitable posts for 
them all, and whether, in general, he promoted men 
of marked ability regardless of the question of pre- 

"My former comrades," he replied, "were given 
leading positions insofar as they were fit for them. 
Seniority does not concern us, whether in the front 
ranks or the rear, but in general we give the 
preference to youth. I was prompt to put able young 
men in responsible positions. I had watched Grandi, 
Stefani, Volpi, Gentile, and others at work, had 


conversed with them freely. I am delighted when 
such men act on their own initiative/* 

"Such men/* I said, "can more readily be super- 
vised when they are in high positions than in low. 
But what do you do when one of your aides casts 
doubts upon the trustworthiness of another? What 
means have you for deciding whether an official is 
loyal or disloyal? How can you avoid being cheated 
by those who are playing for their own hand? How 
do you discover the secret aims of some one newly 
appointed to office?" 

Mussolini fidgeted a little in his chair. No doubt 
after spending many hours in conversation with his 
underlings, he is apt to feel restless, but never once 
did he get up to walk about during our talks. I saw 
that now he was turning my questions over and 
over in his mind and ranging them in order before he 

"In front of this writing table there are two 
adjoining chairs, in one of which you are now sitting. 
If there is a dispute between two officials, I summon 
them both to these chairs and make them unfold 
their grievances as they sit opposite to me, equidis- 
tant, and compelled to look at each other while 
they do so. If suspicion falls on any one in the employ 
of the State or the Party, I give him a chance of 



defending himself here by word of mouth, provided 
that the matter is not a grave one. In more serious in- 
stances, he has to write out his defence. Sometimes 
I keep an eye on the private life of my people, study 
their handwriting, and always take their physiog- 
nomy into account, when I wish to draw conclusions 
as to their trustworthiness. My motto in these 
matters has invariably been to listen patiently and 
to decide justly. In the case of a newcomer, my first 
question is not how he can help me, but what ad- 
vantage he is seeking when he applies to me." 

I asked him how he protected himself against false 
information and against the betrayal of secrets. 

"The important offices in the country are for the 
most part held by trustworthy Fascists. If loyalty 
does not suffice to make them run straight, there is 
the powerful motive of fear in addition, for they 
know that they are being watched. The penalty for 
betrayal is formidable, but has very seldom to be 
inflicted, for I do not allow documents of moment 
to pass through many hands." 

"But how do you safeguard yourself against the 
most dangerous persons of the modern world 
against the experts?" 

"As far as experts are concerned," he rejoined, 
"I generally summon two rivals to sit in these chairs 


and expound their projects. Of course a financial or 
military expert may demand from me, as chief of 
the government, a decision upon some matter con- 
cerning which I am not sufficiently well informed. 
In such a case, my only resource is to do my utmost 
to master the topic. As far as externals are con- 
cerned, our business is facilitated by the speed at 
which we work. Needless formalities and red tape 
were scrapped the very first day I came into power." 

He handed me a document. 

"Here you will see a report from the Minister for 
Agriculture, and my notes on it, which will go back 
to him for examination. You know that we have 
done away with hand-shaking? The Roman greeting 
is more hygienic, more tasteful, and wastes less 


After the discussion of these externals, I turned 
to psychological problems, asking:, 

"How do you bind people to you most closely, 
by honour or by money? By praise or by material 
advantages? By force or by persuasion? Moreover, is 
it possible for the chief of the State, in a country 
where freedom of the press does not exist, to make 
himself acquainted with the mood which prevails 
throughout the country?" 

At the last inquiry, he knitted his brows and 


looked at me suspiciously, as if wondering who could 
have prompted me to introduce this thorny 
question. With him, during our talks, such un- 
easiness was never more than momentary. Any one 
with whom he has agreed to discuss matters freely 
will find it easy enough to stand fire for a second or 
two, for then his brow will clear and he will give a 
tranquil answer. 

"I have been able to bind men to me more closely 
by honour and by persuasion than by money or by 
force. I use praise with moderation, for praise is 
certainly a stimulus, but it is one which speedily 
loses its effect. In all countries, truth lies at the 
bottom of a well. One has to plumb the well and 
discover how deep it is. I deny, however, that 
freedom of the press makes it easier to ascertain the 
truth or, indeed, that freedom of the press 
exists anywhere. Nowadays, where the press is 
nominally free, economic or political interests are 
really in control of the newspapers. I have various 
sources of information: prefects, ministers, private 
citizens. Perhaps the truth comes to me more slowly, 
but it comes in the end." 

"The whole truth?" I interrupted. 

"No one ever learns the whole truth. But there 

are many signs to disclose the general mood. Before 
all, I trust my own insight, what I call my 'sixth 
sense/ It is indefinable." 

"Nevertheless," I said, "a good many cases have 
shown that truth sometimes filters through to you 
very slowly. You say that the integrity of your 
officials is the basis of state life. In Russia cases of 
corruption are discovered. Don't you think that 
public trials after the Russian manner may be use- 
ful? What do you think of the Russian plan of pay- 
ing ministers of state as little as possible as if in 
the Republic of Plato? 5 * 

"Our ministers receive from three to four thou- 
sand lire a month, which is less than the salaries paid 
in most democratic countries. Misconduct on the 
part of officials is punished here as severely and as 
publicly as in Russia. A Fascist who is detected in 
misconduct will make away with himself. The Party 
secretary in Leghorn blew out his brains because 
he had embezzled funds. The mayor of San Remo 
shot himself in the catacombs; the manager of the 
civil engineering works at Naples drowned himself: 
both of them merely because they had been sum- 
moned to come to see me, although not proved 
guilty. From what I read about corruption in demo- 


cratic States, I do not think that we have any cause 
to complain. There is no form of government which 
can eradicate human fallibility." 

Turning to a more personal matter, I asked him 
how, in view of his knowledge of human nature, he 
dealt with himself. 

"Although you say that you have a synthetic 
mind, I regard you as primarily analytical. Tliis 
combination is not an infrequent one. I assume, 
therefore, that you devote a good deal of attention 
to the thought of your adversaries. But what do you 
do when you have yourself made a mistake? Do you 
find it preferable to make an open acknowledgment 
and to better your ways or do you incline to maintain 
the semblance of infallibility? Bismarck said that 
circumstances sometimes arise in which a statesman 
must have the courage to say, 'To-morrow it will 
rain/ If he has made a lucky guess, he will be ac- 
counted a great man." 

"We make no claims to infallibility here," said 
Mussolini. "I may be guilty of twenty mistakes but 
I acknowledge them all. The situation is continually 
changing under the pressure of circumstances, how- 
ever much insight one may have into the actions and 
reactions of one's adversaries." 

"Speaking generally, do you find that in this 

game you hoodwink others more often, or they 

He picked up a pencil and, on a piece of paper, 
sketched a figure throwing a cone of shadow. Then 
he said, rather to himself than to me: 

"There is always an unknown factor. That is the 
umbra/ 5 

After saying this, he sat with bowed head in the 
lamplight, with the sharp point of his pencil applied 
to one of the corners of his sketch, as if holding it 
in its place* He did not, as many would have done 
after such an interlude, crumple up the piece of 
paper and throw it into the waste-paper basket, but 
merely pushed it aside, and then looked up at me 
with that searching glance which Homer speaks 
of as MSea id&v. Always when Mussolini has re- 
vealed even the slightest glimpse of his inner life, he 
changes the conversation; or, in the case of our 
talks, whose guidance he had left in my hands, he 
awaited a new question. This was what I asked. 

"Why do you, even you, make use of the formula: 
'There is no such thing as the impossible'? You know 

"If you are not continually hammering that 
phrase into indolent people's minds, they will go 
to sleep and will say to themselves, even regarding 



easy and simple matters, that these are impossible." 

"Yet it seems to me," I countered, "that that is 
only applicable as an argumentum ad, feminam" 

"Nothing of the sort!" he exclaimed. "Women 
exert no influence upon strong men." 

I returned to the question of his own way of 
managing men and asked him how he protected him- 
self against continual interruptions and whether he 
allowed himself to be awakened at night when there 
was important news. 

"As to interruptions, I protect myself by the 
method of starvation. I only let them awaken me at 
night when there is bad news; good news can wait 
till mornine. I think I have been called up at night 
only thrice in ten years: when the post office in Rome 
was burned down; when the members of our special 
mission in Albania were assassinated; and when the 
Queen Dowager was taken ill." 

"Do you find that there are special circumstances 
or special times in which you are exceptionally pro- 

"When I am afoot," he answered. "I often walk 
up and down my room for a couple of hours before 
coming to a decision or formulating a statement. 
My ideas flow most freely in the evening, especially 
towards midnight. But when does one have ideas? 


A man in my position must be stupid at least once 
a week, or must seem so. On such days I learn a great 
deal. Inspiration? If one is lucky, that comes once or 
twice a year." 



HE Piazza di Venezia was crowded with twenty 
thousand people; a dozen bands vied with one an- 
other; the songs, the shouts of the crowd reechoed on 
all hands. It was a Fascist festival, and the "black 
shirts" wanted to see their leader. The Palazzo, 
usually a quiet place, plunged in dreams of the past, 
had to-day been accessible to me only with the aid 
of an officer; it was crowded with men in uniform 
who thronged the staircase and the halls. 

In the great room where we were accustomed to 
hold our conversations, the Duce sat alone, also in 
uniform. A king once said to me that when he was 
in uniform his thoughts were different from when 
he was in mufti; he meant that they were weaker. 
I myself have noticed that an officer who is alone 
among civilians feels dressed up and therefore in- 
commoded, just as a civilian isolated among a 
hundred wearers of uniform finds his position 
anomalous. Nor have I. ever heard two officers in 
uniform talking philosophy to each other, any more 


than I have ever seen two thinkers sparring with 
their fists; although there is no insuperable reason 
against either happening. 

Mussolini, different though he looks in uniform, 
was the same man as far as concerned his mental 
outlook. Since the noise in the square and the sense 
of expectancy made a continuance of our ordinary 
conversation impossible, I began to talk to him 
about Abyssinia. 

"But I must be going, 55 1 said suddenly, pulling 
myself up. "You will have to make a speech in a 

moment/ 5 

"Go on with what you were saying, 5 ' he replied, 
and we walked to and fro in the room until an 
officer came to inquire whether the windows on the 
balcony should be thrown open. Mussolini put on 
his cap, told me to watch from the adjoining 
window, and to come back to him when the 
demonstration was concluded. He had not a minute 
left in which to think over the speech he was about 
to make. As, in response to the reiterated clamour 
from the crowd, he stepped forth on the veranda, I 
noted in his profile the paternal, contented expres- 
sion which he exhibits when he is talking of con- 
structive work. As he looked for a moment upon 
the throng beneath, he resembled a playwright who 



comes into a theatre and finds the actors impatiently 
waiting for him to superintend the rehearsal. 

Suddenly, at a sign from him, the noise in the 
square was stilled, his features became tense, and 
with a vigorous impetus, in staccato fashion, he flung 
his first words at the auditors. He uttered no more 
than about thirty sentences, the last of which was 
followed by renewed acclamation. When the 
windows had been closed there were heard through 
the doors of the hall rhythmical calls of "Duce! 
Duce!" He ordered these doors to be opened and in 
rushed about sixty Fascist officers who assembled 
round his writing table. They were the secretaries 
of the Party from all quarters of Italy. There was 
no ceremonial reverence nor even formality to in- 
terfere with a friendly reception. In his soft, low- 
pitched voice, Mussolini began to address each of 
them, not by name, but by the name of the town 
from which he came, pointing to the person con- 
cerned. Occasionally he hesitated and had to ask 
which was which; but most of them he recognised 
without difficulty. They all looked to him as to a 
father, although some of them must have been as 
old as himself. Then, when he wished to dismiss them 
with the Roman greeting, one of them called out, 
"Duce! A photograph!" 


He smiled, a servant fetched the photographer 
whom his Fascist officers had brought along, they 
grouped themselves in the middle of the hall, some 
of them wheeling up the two easy-chairs that stood 
in front of the writing table, to stand on them be- 
hind their fellows. A flashlight photograph was 
taken. Everything was done with the utmost cheer- 
fulness, amid quips and jests, an attitude of full 
confidence of the subordinates in the chief, and 
perhaps also of the chief in the subordinates. At 
length, amid renewed singing and shouts of acclama- 
tion, the secretaries withdrew from the hall. 

Mussolini went back to his desk but stood for a 
minute or two in front of the fireplace. Seeing on 
the floor an order which one of his visitors had 
dropped, he picked it up and thereafter sat down 
in his usual place. Having rung, as soon as the 
servant entered the door, he called across the sixty 
feet to ask where I was. At that I emerged from the 
deep window niche in which I had been standing out 
of sight. He smiled at me; while the thought flashed 
across my mind, how easily any one hidden away 
as I had been might have assassinated htm. It is 
untrue to say that the Duce is watched like a tsar. 
Although his speech from the window and his re- 
ception of the secretaries had intervened, he wished, 



just as if nothing had happened, to resume our con- 
versation precisely where it had been broken off half 
an hour before. He asked me to continue what I had 
been saying about Abyssinia. I was refractory, how- 
ever; spoke of what I had been witnessing; and 

"I myself have been moved by the significance of 
these two scenes. I should very much like to know 
what they mean to you." 

"A proof of enthusiasm," he answered shortly. 

"Nevertheless," I went on, "you have written 
harsh words about the masses; you have declared 
that His Holiness the People must be dragged down 
from His altar. There was another time, if I re- 
member aright, when you said, 'We do not believe 
that the crowd can reveal any mystery to us/ But 
if the masses give you no revelation, how can they 
have any effect on you? Without mutuality, I can- 
not conceive of any exchange of influence between 
one man and twenty thousand. Fascism has been de- 
fined as an expansion and a tension. Can you expect 
these from the masses? And how long will such 
emotions last?" 

Mussolini leaned back into the shadows; and, as 
the chains and the orders he wore ceased to glitter, 
I once more discerned the thinker of whom I was in 


search. The subdued ardour which radiates from 
him in his strong moments made itself felt. He 
seemed to be pondering some generalisation that 
would serve in place of a direct answer, for there 
was a pause before he slowly began to explain his 

"For me the masses are nothing but a herd of 
sheep, so long as they are unorganised. I am nowise 
antagonistic to them. All that I deny is that they are 
capable of ruling themselves. But if you would lead 
them, you must guide them by two reins, enthusiasm 
and interest. He who uses one only of these reins is 
in grave danger. The mystical and the political 
factors condition each other reciprocally. Either 
without the other is arid, withered, and is stripped 
of its leaves by the wind. I cannot expect the masses 
to face the discomforts of life; that is only for 6 the 
few. Therein will you find the mutuality to which 
you referred just now. To-day I spoke only a few 
words to those in the Piazza. To-morrow millions 
will read them, but those who actually stood there 
have a livelier faith, in what they heard with their 
ears, and, if I may say so, heard with their eyes. 
Every speech made to the crowd has a twofold 
object, to clarify the situation and to suggest some- 
thing to the masses. That is why speeches made to 


the people are essential to the arousing of enthusiasm 
for a war/* 

"Perhaps you are the greatest living expert in this 
art of influencing the masses/' said L "But what 
about those who are not bound to the movement by 
any special interest?" 

"They have hopes and the conviction that they 
are serving a great cause. I have known the masses 
for thirty years. In Milan I could empty the streets! 
There, they called me Barbarossa." 

Never before had I heard Mussolini vaunt any 
of his achievements; but there was a proud ring in 
his voice when he spoke the words: "I could empty 
the streets." 

"What part does music play in influencing the 
masses? What part do women play, and gestures, and 

"They are all spectacular elements," he replied in 
the same vibrant tone. "Music and women allure the 
crowd and make it more pliable. The Roman greet- 
ing, songs and formulas, anniversary commemora- 
tions, and the like all are essential to fan the 
flames of the enthusiasm that keeps a movement in 
being. It was just the same in ancient Rome." 

"What do you think of Coriolanus?" I asked, 
prompted by his last remark. 



He smiled without looking at me; paused for a 
considerable time (a thing he rarely did before 
answering) ; and then replied briefly: 

"A legendary figure! Shakespeare's play is the 
best print of the legend." 

Since this was no more than an adroit evasion, I 
thought it better to have a complete change of 

"You have told me that you prepare your speeches 
months in advance. What difference does the sight 
of the masses make in them?" 

"It is like the building of American houses," an- 
swered Mussolini. "First of all the skeleton is set up, 
the steel framework. Then, as circumstances may 
demand, the framework is filled in with concrete or 
with tiles or with some more costly material I 
already have the girder skeleton ready for my speech 
at our next October festival. It will be the atmos- 
phere of the Piazza, the eyes and the voices of the 
thousands who will be present to hear me, which will 
decide me whether to finish off the edifice with 
travertin or tiles or marble or concrete or all of 
them together." 

I was much impressed by this metaphor drawn 
from his sometime occupation as a mason. Lenin, 
I said, must have fashioned his speeches in much the 


same way; and Mussolini extolled Lenin's capacity 
for disciplining the masses. 

"The Fascists," I went on, "talk a great deal about 
discipline. In Germany, we have had rather too 
much of it. We have been studying you Italians for 
the last thirty years and are afraid that your 
shoulders are not strong enough for the burden. 
Discipline may make you less happy and perhaps 
deprive you of your charm." 

This pricked him and he turned vigorously from 
the defensive to the offensive. 

"You may say that you have had too much dis- 
cipline in your own land, but let me tell you, though 
we are not trying to transform Italy into a replica of 
pre-war Prussia, we want to make our country as 
strongly disciplined as was yours. Our conception 
of the nation is synthetic, not analytic. One who 
marches in step with others is not thereby dimin- 
ished, as you and your friends are fond of saying; 
he is multiplied by all those who move shoulder to 
shoulder with him. Here, as in Russia, we are ad- 
vocates of the collective significance of life and we 
wish to develop this at the cost of individualism. 
That does not mean that we go so far as to think of 
individuals as mere figures upon a slate, but that we 
think of them chiefly in relation to the part they 


have to play in the general life of the community. 
Herein may be recognised a very remarkable ad- 
vance in national psychology, for it has been made 
by one of the Mediterranean peoples, who have 
hitherto been considered unfitted for anything of 
the kind. A sense of the collectivity of life is the 
new spell that is working among us. But, after all, 
were things different in classical Rome? In the days 
of the old Roman republic, the life of the citizen 
was at one with the life of the State; and when, 
under the emperors, a change took place in this 
respect, it marked the beginning of the decline and 
fall. You see, then, what we Fascists want to make 
out of the masses. We want to organise their col- 
lective life; to teach them to live, to work, and to 
fight in a great fellowship but in a hierarchy, not 
in a mere herd. We want the humanity and the 
beauty of a communal life. We know that foreign- 
ers are puzzled by us! The individual is, in a sense, 
taken away from the family as early as the age of 
six and is restored to it at the age of sixty. Believe me, 
the individual loses nothing thereby, but is multi- 

He had become more vivacious than customary, 
for he was dilating upon his favourite thought. We 
had reached the barrier which separates an ardent 


individualist from Rome as from Moscow. There 
was no occasion for me to intrude my own notions 
on the subject. He had read them. What expectation 
could I have of modifying the fundamental con- 
ceptions of such a leader as Mussolini, who for ten 
years had been passionately striving to realise them? 
I merely said, therefore: 

"Young people to-day have enthusiastically es- 
poused these ideas and not in Rome only! But 
there are many of us who would rather not be 
multiplied in any such fashion. Besides, if you quote 
classical Rome as a model, if you think that the 
masses are unchanged, what becomes of what is 
known as progress?" 

"A hard word to define," answered Mussolini, 
this time in a rather chilly tone. "Perhaps 'progress* 
is a spiral. Sorel categorically denied that there was 
any such thing as moral progress, contending that 
the only progress was mechanical. I differ from him, 
for I believe that moral progress really takes place, 
though it is exposed to great dangers. The pace is 
slow and even at that slow pace men often grow 
weary. Moreover, what is progress? .In imperial 
Rome there were poets and philosophers. There were 
splendid institutions for the promotion of public 



Opening his portfolio, he took from it a sheet of 
paper which he handed me to read. On it were in- 
scribed figures showing how many public baths and 
drinking fountains there were in Rome during the 
third century A.D. 

"But no Marconi," I said, "the physicist whose 
recent discoveries save thousands every year by 
death from drownings." 

"No, Marconi did not then exist," he answered 
curtly; and once more I recognised how barren was 
this ancient controversy, seeing that each one of us 
attaches his own meaning to the term "human 
progress." I therefore reverted to the question of 
the crowd. 

"You wrote once that the masses ought not to 
know, but to believe. Do you still regard this prin- 
ciple of the Jesuits as practicable to-day, amid all 
the advances of modern technique?" He set his jaw 
resolutely as he answered: 

"It is faith that moves mountains, not reason. 
Reason is a tool, but it can never be the motive force 
of the crowd. To-day less than ever. To-day people 
have not so much time to think as they used to have. 
The capacity of the modern man for faith is illimit- 
able. When the masses are like wax in my hands, 
when I stir their faith, or when I mingle with them 


and am almost crushed by them, I feel myself to be 
a part of them. All the same, there persists in me 
a certain feeling of aversion, like that which the 
modeller feels for the clay he is moulding. Does not 
the sculptor sometimes smash his block of marble 
into fragments because he cannot shape it to repre- 
sent the vision he has conceived? Now and then this 
crude matter rebels against the creator! 5 * 

After a pause he went on: 

"Everything turns upon one's ability to control 
the masses like an artist/ 5 




LIBERTY!" said Mussolini in his low-pitched, 
melodious voice. "Since you are continually re- 
curring to this theme, let me tell you once more that 
in our State the individual does not lack freedom. 
He has more liberty than an isolated man, for the 
State protects him and he is a part of the State* 
The isolated man is not befriended and is, thereby, 

"Yet as late as the year 1919, when you were 
already a Fascist, you wrote some noteworthy words 
regarding some of these acquirements of western 
civilisation: 'Individual liberty, freedom of the spirit 
which does not live by bread alone; a liberty higher 
than that which prevails in the barracks of Lenin, 
other than that known to the Prussian noncommis- 
sioned officer for these are a return to the bar- 
barism of the eleventh century/ " 

He answered coldly, and in general terms: 
"We have endeavoured to realise as much freedom 
as is possible to-day/* 



"There would be one way in winch you could con- 
vince the world of that/* 

He looked at me inquiringly. 

"If you, who for four years ruled amid opposition 
and criticism, were now, after another six years, to 
restore freedom of the press and to allow criticism a 
free rein." 

"Of course I could do that, but it would be futile. 
It would not better the situation in any way. To- 
day, as I have already said, the struggle lies in the 
realm of things/* 

Since I could make no progress in this direction, 
I introduced the topic of Plato, and asked, since 
Mussolini had frequently quoted Plato, what he 
considered to have been Plato's attitude towards the 
'State*. Turning in his chair, the Dictator picked up 
a ponderous tome from an adjoining table, opened 
It, and fluttered the leaves. 

"It is interesting to note that Plato already had 
a notion of the organisation of the State. Look! 
Here it is! Warriors, priests, and workers, whom he 
compares with the organs of the individual human 
being: the warrior is the arm; the priest is the brain; 
the worker is the belly.* 5 

"Is the priest still the brain? 5 * I asked mis- 



Mussolini is as indifferent to such petty wiles as if 
tie were some huge pachyderm. 

"To-day society is far more complicated than it 
was in Plato's time," he was content to rejoin. 

Closing the thick volume, he leaned both arms on 
it. There he sat, the Dictator, supported upon the 
State of which he had assumed full control. He was 
in a calm and possessive mood, finding me to-day 
in full opposition, and quietly awaiting the enemy 

"There is one thing," I said after a little, "with 
whose existence in this State of yours you are per- 
haps less acquainted than are we who look on from 
outside. I mean the dread which many of your 
citizens have of informers and talebearers. Their 
activities arouse feelings of insecurity and hatred." 

"Every society," he answered cheerfully, "needs 
a certain proportion of citizens who have to be 
detested. In this respect, certainly, we resemble the 
Russians. But it was Jaures, the arch-Socialist, who 
wrote in one of his books that if a revolution is to 
maintain itself, it must be defended. He used that 
argument to justify the French Revolution, in which 
*la loi des suspected was placed on the statute book 
a law thanks to which a presumed offender might 
be sentenced merely on suspicion. Besides, it was a 


German, Hegel, who declared that the 'people' was 
that part of the nation which did not know what it 

"As far as politics are concerned," said I, "we 
Germans will gladly make a present of Hegel to the 
foreign world, especially to the Russians, who are so 
fond of quoting him. For centuries we have had 
experience of dictatorships in Germany, for many 
of our most incompetent princes were dictators; and 
not so very long ago Bismarck was dictator for 
eight-and-twenty years. What happened when he 
fell from power without having trained any suc- 
cessor? A huge rock had been dislodged and where 
it had stood the worms came to light." 

"Nevertheless it was he who made Germany 
great," said Mussolini, adding with a smile, "I think 
I am quoting your own book!" 

"Still," I said, "what makes us uneasy in face of 
uncontrolled power is the dread of what will happen 
when the man of power passes away. Do you know 
what Bunsen said of Bismarck? That he had made 
Germany great and the Germans small." 


"Is dictatorship an Italian specific?" I went on. 

Apparently I could not shake him from his mood 
of combative repose. 



"Maybe. Italy has always been a country of out- 
standing individuals. Here in Rome, venerable 
Rome, there have been more than seventy dictator- 

"What a pity that man is mortal!" cried I. "When 
you fell sick (it was in 1925, I think), you wrote 
that everything had become problematical, for you 
were irreplaceable/* 

"That was seven years ago. Since then I have been 
trying to train successors and have been putting 
them to the test. There already exists a ruling class 
of first-rate intelligence; for instance, Grandi, 
Balbo, Botai, ArpinatL I need hardly tell you that 
there are historical situations which are never re- 
produced; or, if reproduced, recur only in a 
mitigated form. One passes from the mystical to the 
political, from epic to prose. An intelligent man 
properly equipped with character can, represent 
and govern a nation. I think, however, that there 
will not be a second TDuce*; or that, if he appeared 
upon the scene, Italy would not put up with him/* 

"You remember,** I said, regarding him fixedly, 
"that Goethe said: 'Genius is always unique* 
but. . /* 

Responding in kind to my intent gaze, he re- 
peated my "but,** and said no more. 



Grasping at the best way of saving the conversa- 
tion from extinction, I asked: 

"You think, then, that a dynasty would provide 
the best safeguard?" 

"Beyond question," he replied, with equanimity; 
"a dynasty provides for continuity, supplies the 
factor of automatic renewal. f Le roi est mart, vive 

"If it be true/* I said, "that Nitti, in the year 1920, 
aspired to become president of an Italian republic, 
do you suppose that he was shipwrecked on the rock 
of Italian monarchical sentiment? In Germany we 
had had kings for many centuries, but they dis- 
appeared, one and all, in the course of a single week. 
Italy is a much younger country and has had so 
many republics." 

"Only here and there, and episodically," replied 
Mussolini briskly. "The whole of the south has been 
used to monarchical rule for hundreds of years. 
When Crispi broke away from Mazzini, he wrote in 
a famous letter: 'Monarchy unifies the people, but 
a republican system disintegrates it.' " 

"The last of our kings," said I, "made use of re- 
ligious belief to buttress their thrones. William II 
and Francis Ferdinand were both of them convinced 
champions of divine right and I cannot conceive 



of a king who does not believe in that doctrine/* 
"I differ," replied Mussolini. "Nowadays a king 
can reign as a sceptic/* 

"Has the title of king ever allured you? 5 * 
"That is a problem in which I have never had the 
slightest interest/* 

His answer was as indifferent as if I had asked him 
about the design of the new postage stamp. 

"In the year 1925 you charged the deputies who 
withdrew to the Sacred Mount with wanting to 
establish a republic, did you not?** 

"They did not know what they wanted/* 
"Still,** I continued, "it seems to me that you pro- 
tected the throne. And did not the throne protect 
you on another occasion?** 

He reflected a while, in the thoughtful attitude 
habitual in him when he rests his chin on his hands, 
elbows on the table, looking downwards, and then 
slowly raising his eyes towards the questioner. At 
such times he manifests the restful seriousness of 
the man of creative temperament whom one would 
never deem an anarchist. 

"Yes, yes, you are right. It is true enough that I 
protected the throne. As a matter of simple duty, 
I defend the throne; but at the same time I have a 
great admiration for the King, I regard him, not 


only as a patriot, but also as a highly cultured in- 
dividual. It is likewise true that the monarch 
has constitutionally and loyally supported my re- 

"Listening to you, I sometimes think that there 
are still contented countries in the world. Yet there 
are certain intellectual circles in which grave dis- 
satisfaction prevails. Here in Italy, I mean. Those 
of whom I am thinking rail against you as the arch- 
Fascist. Yesterday I received a letter which might 
give you cause for discouragement. It was written 
by a man of letters. He said that truth was a rarity 
in these times, and that liberty was nonexistent." 

"A man of letters!" said Mussolini disdainfully. 

"Did not you yourself say that the Fascist State 
was fully entitled to prescribe the duties incumbent 
upon its citizens?" 

"If one sets out from certain principles," he 
answered, "one must not shrink from the logical 
consequences of these." 

"Your logic is Napoleonic and I have nothing to 
say against it. But what will your contemporaries in 
general, what will posterity, think? Do you know 
that millions of persons, down to this very day, base 
their judgment of Napoleon's character upon the 
fact that he had the Duke of Enghien shot?" 



"An unfair judgment," said Mussolini, "the ex- 
ecution of the Duke of Enghien was no more than 
an episode which must not be magnified out of pro- 
portion to the whole. Had that execution been 
Napoleon's whole record, he would have been 
blameworthy without qualification. Unquestion- 
ably it would have been better had this fault not 
been chargeable to his account. Still, in like manner, 
one must not pass a harsh judgment upon Julius 
Caesar for having had Vercingetorix put to death. 
Of course his life story would have been a finer one 
without this act of barbarism, but it is absurd to 
hold so titanic a figure up to reproach because of one 
such incident/ 5 

"It is possible," I rejoined, "that such occurrences 
are the outcome of autocracy. When all the power 
of the State is concentrated in the hands of one man, 
it may well happen that undesirable things take 
place in despite of the autocrat's will. When I say 
this, I am thinking of the murder of MateottL Don't 
you think that such things are more likely to happen 
in a dictatorship?" 

"Political crimes," answered Mussolini quietly, 
"happen just as often in democratic States. Yotj will 
remember a notorious instance under Napoleon HI. 
Since the establishment of the Third Republic in 



France, there have been many strange crimes com- 
mitted by persons in authority. As for the youthful 
German democracy, I think that during the ten 
years or so of its existence there have been more such 
incidents in Germany than in any other country." 






*O you think that there are good nations and 
bad ones?" 

My question remained hanging in the air, like a 
little white cloud from a burst shrapnel. I watched 
it drifting from my lips across the great writing 
table to poise above his head. Had the walls of this 
immemorial hall ever reechoed so strange, so absurd 
a question? Would not the pope, who frequented it 
for a time, have laughed at its absurdity? Yet per- 
haps the inquiry was not so preposterous, after all, 
for the answer to it forms part of the groundwork 
of foreign policy if this be regarded from a more 
comprehensive outlook than through the spectacles 
of an ambassador who considers his own country to 
be the best in the world and believes his own career 
to be the main purpose for which his native land 

Mussolini, certainly, did not laugh, nor did he 
answer me crudely, as an imperialist would have 
done. A disciple of Nietzsche, although he is him- 
self a condottiere, he analyses problems. 



"There are neither good nations nor bad ones," 
came the answer. "Still, there are people more at- 
tractive than others. This is a subjective choice!" 

"You think the value of a nation, that which 
makes it attractive, is determined by victory in 

"Not alone by victory," said Mussolini. "All the 
same, victory is one of the elements of its value. 
Victory counts for something! We see this on all 
hands to-day. Every nation has shown its capacity 
for sacrifice. Look at China! Who would have ex- 
pected so self-sacrificing a resistance in that 

"You have often declared that preparedness for 
war is a proof of this capacity for self-sacrifice." 

"A part of it, certainly," he interjected. 

"I am well aware," I went on, "that at certain 
times you have been intoxicated by victory. The war 
of technique, which to us seems unheroic, is a thing 
you contemplate emotionally, like the spectators at 
a tournament. As regards the Great War, which for 
those of my way of thinking, having been carried 
on for years between two coalitions connected by 
purely casual ties, eventuated in a mechanical and 
unspiritual victory of the stronger coalition over 
the weaker it seems to you that the stronger, per- 



haps the braver, party was entitled to a laurel crown. 
In poetical fashion, you extolled f la vittoria senza 
misura.* But when, a few years later, you had risen 
to power, and, in a treaty, were renouncing the third 
zone of Dalmatia, you said in the Chamber: 'This is 
the best treaty we can get/ A wise saying and a 
manly one! Bismarck, who at one time likewise was 
intoxicated by victory, said when his blood had 
cooled that politics was the art of the possible." 

"An excellent definition," interpolated Mussolini. 

"Comparing your earlier utterance with your 
later, I infer that during these ten years of power 
your views and feelings have tended towards moder- 


"I think so," he said in his tranquil, deep-toned 

This was not the first time, in the course of our 
talks, that I had brought Mussolini to the same turn- 
ing point, and I think the development in question 
is of more importance to Europe than all the work 
he is doing for the internal upbuilding of Italy. I 
know, of course, that such utterances to a private 
individual like myself afford no guarantee. Still, 
since I deduced his character from his resolves, from 
resolves whicfi in this case are decisive for the lives 
and actions of forty-two millions of persons, I did 



my best to make him face up to the problem from 
various aspects, inasmuch as it is a problem which 
in the last analysis is not a matter either of neces- 
sity or of utility, but a problem of character. 

"These things cannot be systematised," continued 
Mussolini, after a pause. "Systems are illusions and 
theories are fetters. For instance, I regard the net- 
work of treaties of friendship and agreement con- 
cerning tariffs as greater guarantees of peace than 
alliances on the grand scale and even than the League 
of Nations." 

"Treaties, too, are fetters/' I objected. 

"Not a bit of it," he answered. "I once spoke of 
treaties as chapters in history and denied that they 
are epilogues. This view has nothing whatever to 
do with Bethmann Hollweg's notorious "scrap of 
paper/ It only means that the Paris treaties, like 
hundreds of earlier treaties, can and must be modi- 

"At the Disarmament Conference, Italy has been 
making far-reaching proposals. Winston Churchill 
(you told me once that you esteemed him highly) 
has spoken of the huge French army as a guarantee 
of peace. Do you agree?" 

"On the contrary." 



"Still, in Italy you train your children for war!" 

"I prepare them for the struggle for life/* an- 
swered Mussolini. "Also I prepare them for the 
struggle of the nation." 

"In Germany/' said I, "twenty-five years after 
the Franco-German War, we were still, in our 
schools, holding an annual commemoration of the 
victory of Sedan. This ceremony kept the bitterness 
of the French alive. To-day our sometime enemies 
are doing the same thing as regards the Battle of the 
Marne. Why do you continue such celebrations, 
which can only mortify the foes of yesterday?" 

"When we celebrate our entry into the war, on 
May 24, 1915, we do not do so as a triumph over 
the vanquished. This fact will give you the key to 
my whole political attitude. For us the date is a 
revolutionary landmark, seeing that then the people 
came to a decision in defiance of the wishes of the 
parliamentarians. It was really the beginning of the 
Fascist revolution." 

"It is hard for children to grasp the distinction. 
Commemorations of victory enter into their blood. 
Children are cruel to animals and for that reason 
they are easily trained up to love war for its own 



"Blood!" he repeated cantankerously. "People 
seem only to become aware that a war is in prog- 
ress when blood flows. Have we not a tariff war to- 
day? Every one buys Ford cars because they are 
cheaper and while doing so every one curses 

"You think, then, that a tariff war is a danger 
to the world's peace?" 

"That is why I am opposed to tariffs. I have not 
raised them so much as other rulers. By building 
these new Chinese walls, we are, in our 'enlightened* 
twentieth century, going back to the Middle Ages, 
to the era of the warring city States." 

"Last summer President X., the chief of one of 
the most powerful States in the world, said to me 
that the crisis in which we are now involved was of 
the same kind as those which have preceded it, and 
would, like those, speedily pass." 

"To my mind," said he, "it is something more 
momentous than that, a crisis of the capitalistic sys- 
tem. The whole system is at stake." 

For some time my enthusiasm for truth and for 
the rights of man had been stirring within me. Now, 
seizing my chance, I said: 

"If you really believe what you say, why don't 
you found Europe? Napoleon tried to do so and so 



did Briand. Well, Briand is dead and, paradoxically 
enough, the mantle falls on your shoulders. You seem 
more ready to accept the heritage than you were 
five years ago. Your life history would make people 
regard you seriously if you were to undertake this 
great enterprise, for a man stands more firmly if, 
when climbing to a great altitude, he Eas climbed 
slowly. Mussolini as the founder of Europe! You 
might become the leading figure of the twentieth 

I dwelt at some length upon this topic, which for 
me has become a religion. He contemplated me quiz- 
zically and answered without enthusiasm: 

"True, I am nearer to this idea than I was five 
years ago. But the time is not yet ripe. The crisis 
has first to be intensified. New revolutions will come 
and it is as their sequel that the type of the Euro- 
pean of to-morrow will be established/ 5 



HAD been to a first night at the opera and had 
seen in the boxes more resplendent gowns and had 
noted the flashing of more jewels than had been 
visible in the opera houses of Paris and New York 
of late years. The numberless cars, only half of 
which could be parked in the square, the abundance 
of liveried servants, the whole setting, seemed to 
negate the notion that the world was sick of a fever. 
Rome, to all appearance, was resolved to deny that 
a social revolution was in progress. A few weeks 
earlier I had been in the great opera house of Mos- 
cow, where the singing and the acting were just as 
good, where the dancing was better, and where the 
stage was no less resplendent. In Moscow, snow was 
falling on the boards (they were playing "Pique- 
Dame") , whereas in Rome, Don Pasquale's garden 
was bright with flowers. 

The aspect of the Moscow theatre, with its audi- 
ence of five thousand men and women, had an ef- 



feet akin to that of the music of the scene with 
the Commander in "Don Giovanni/' These people 
clad mostly in drab garments, though here and there 
a bright dress was visible, were craving for illusion, 
as they sat looking on and listening to the orchestra, 
in a sort of restrained tranquillity. They were all 
under stress of the impending toil of the morrow, 
and, when we emerged from the portals, there was 
no press of cars in waiting; merely two or three hack 
sledges hoping for a fare. It was by electric tram- 
cars that the auditors made their way home, when 
the immense reality of the contemporary situation 
in Russia had swiftly effaced the imaginings aroused 
by the opera. 

Nevertheless the resemblances between the Ro- 
man and the Muscovite system are so strong that I 
told Mussolini about these two operas in order to 
see what he would say. At first came some gener- 

"Differences! We have private property, whereas 
there is none in Russia. We have bitted and bridled 
capitalism, but the Russians have abolished it. Here, 
the Party is subordinate to the government; there, 
matters are the other way about.'* 

"Still," I said, "in Italy the Party and the govern- 
ment are simultaneously incorporated in your own 



person; and in Russia under Lenin like conditions 
obtained/ 5 

"I don't deny the similarities/' 

"Before the war/' I went on, "you wrote in 
Avanti: 'Socialism is not an Arcadian and peace- 
ful affair. "We do not believe in the sacredness of 
human life/ Is not that Fascism?" 

"Yes, it is the same thing/' 

"You have also written: 'Unless Fascism were a 
faith, how could it arouse the fire of enthusiasm?' 
Is not that Communism?" 

He nodded assent, saying, "Such kinships do not 
trouble me." 

"It follows, then, does it not, that the faith which 
both you and the Russians demand and find dis- 
tinguishes your respective systems from all others?" 

"Yes," he said, "and more than that. In negative 
matters as well we are like each other; both we and 
the Russians are opposed to the liberals, to the demo- 
crats, to parliament/* 

"In 1919 or 1920 you wrote that Lenin had freed 
Russia from the autocracy and you foretold that 
some day that country would become the most pro- 
ductive in all the world." 

"Is not my prophecy already on the way to being 
fulfilled?" asked Mussolini. 



"Lenin must have known you personally. I have 
heard that he said to the Italians: 'Why did you lose 
Mussolini?' " 

"Yes, it is true that Lenin said that. I can't re- 
member whether I met him in Zurich with the 
others. You know that they were continually chang- 
ing their names. We used all to argue a great deal 
with one another." 

"I wonder that you, with your anti-Slav tem- 
perament, could get on with the Russians at 

"Well/ 5 he said, "the Russians certainly find it 
very hard to make themselves wholly comprehen- 
sible. In their eagerness to reach the bottom of 
things they are apt to tumble into confusion." 

"In your youth," said I, "and when you were a 
journalist, you used to philosophise a great deal with 
your comrades. Don't you miss those discussions to- 

"I cannot 'philosophise' any longer. I have to 


This answer was curt, low-toned, abrupt, and 
definite; as if tapped out in the Morse code. 

"When I was in Moscow recently," I continued, 
"I was struck by two things in almost every one I 
met work and hope* Is it the same here?" 



"Much the same, but here we cannot find work 
for everybody/* 

"Nevertheless you have done wonderful things 
with the aid of the unemployed. Our objections to 
dictatorship are mitigated when we take note of 
your constructive work/ 5 

"It is interesting," he replied, "that one of our 
own ablest engineers, Omodeo, who built the dam 
for the great reservoir in the valley of the Tirso in 
Sardinia, is now building a similar dam upon the 

"Symbolic," I replied. "You are building, im- 
proving, constructing, just like the Russians. You 
force the banks to support the factories and the fac- 
tories to maintain the workers. I don't know whether 
that should be called state Socialism. The name does 

not matter." 

"This is something which it is desirable you should 
understand very clearly," said Mussolini. "The 
Fascist State directs and controls the entrepreneurs, 
whether it be in our fisheries or in our heavy indus- 
try in the Val d'Aosta. There the State actually owns 
the mines and carries on transport, for the railways 
are state property. So are many of the factories. All 
the same, this is not state Socialism, for we do not 
want to establish a monopoly in which the State 



does everything* "We term it state intervention. It is 
all specified and defined in the Carta del Lavoro. If 
anything fails to work properly, the State inter- 


"Is this development on the increase?" I asked. 
"Will the capitalists continue to obey? 9 * 

"Everywhere it is on the increase. The capitalists 
will go on doing what they are told, down to the 
very end. They have no option and cannot put up 
any fight. Capital is not God; it is only a means to 
an end/* 

"The general impression I gather, is that you are 
returning, if not to your starting point, at least to 
the neighbourhood of your earlier notions.** 

"Speaking generally, I am burning my boats,** he 
replied. tc l make a fresh start; but I do not hesitate 
to learn from my earlier experiences.** 

Seeing that we had come to a deadlock in this 
matter, I turned to the question of France. 

"You spoke, not long ago, of the unlikelihood of 
the establishment of a republic in Italy. Do you 
think the republic is stabilised in France?'* 

"The republic won the war. That is a firm foun- 

"The French have been spoken of as the Chinese 
of Europe, because they seem to shut themselves 



behind a wall and to ignore, more or less, what is 
going on in the rest of the Continent. Yet they are 
greatly stirred by thoughts of power and glory. How 
do you account for the way in which the petty- 
bourgeois spirit marches hand in hand with the 
representative idea?" 

"You are mooting a problem which is typical of 
French psychology," said Mussolini. "On the indi- 
vidual plane, the Frenchman is small; on the na- 
tional plane, he is great. This is natural enough. 
The French have centuries of unified national life 
behind them and have had a succession of note- 
worthy kings. We lack those memories in Italy." 

"It seems to me that you personally have learned 
a great deal from the French." 

"Certainly! From Renan in philosophical prob- 
lems; from Sorel in syndicalism and other topical 
questions. But above all I have learned from the 
French titan, Balzac!" 

"Without any attempt to bridge the transition, I 

"The English have sometimes been called the Ro- 
mans of modern days. You, as a modern Roman, 
ought to have a considered opinion upon that point." 

"The Romans of modern days? No. But they have 
some of the qualities that were characteristic of the 


ancient Romans: a genius for empire; tenacity; pa- 


"I am surprised," said I, "to find that England is 
so little loved here in Italy. Do you suppose that is 
because the British are the strongest pillars of that 
democracy which you repudiate?" 

"It is not the English, in particular, who are un- 
popular. Foreigners in general are disliked! All our 
sympathies with the world outside Italy have waned. 
A new movement such as ours makes short work of 
traditional phrases. For half a century at least the 
friendship between Italy and England has been a 
catchword. We scrutinise the problem and inquire, 
'Is there any substance in this alleged friendship?* 
Then there is talk about the 'brotherhood of the 
Latin nations/ Are the French 'Latins' and have they 
shown any sense of fraternity with us? Such 
revisions as these are altogether in the spirit of 

"Curiously enough, in the course of my travels 
I have found you more popular in America than 
anywhere else. In a hundred interviews I was asked: 
'How do you like Mussolini?' Yet the Americans are 
opposed to dictatorships in any form." 

"You are wrong; the Americans have a dictator," 
he answered promptly. "The president is almost 



omnipotent, his power being guaranteed by the 


"True, he might be omnipotent." 

"No, he actually is all-powerful." 

"Last summer I had talks with both Hoover and 
Borah. The difference between the two men in re- 
spect both of character and political views is even 
greater than appears at first sight. They differed, too, 
about the war loans. Do you think that the United 
States can agree to the annulment of these loans?" 

"Not can but must!" 

"There are three more questions I want to ask 
you, questions that were continually being put to 
me in America, ** 

"Companionate marriage, first of all, I suppose?" 
he inquired. 

I laughed, and he went on: 

"A mere fallacy! It does not solve the problem. 
A great puzzle, sexual relations, and neither civil 
nor ecclesiastical marriage answers the riddle. Still, 
taking it all in all, the old way is the best. Your 
second question, no doubt, concerns prohibition?" 

"Of course." 

"The problem is thorny!" he said. "For my own 
part, I am practically a teetotaller, but what is the 
actual state of affairs? For untold ages men have 



cultivated the grape and Have drunk wine until the 
habit has become second nature, and then the Ameri- 
cans come along and want to drive nature out with 
a pitchfork. As a result, they have established an 
alcoholism much worse than the old. What's your 
third question?" 

"Technical advances and the making of 'rec- 
ords/ ** I replied. "I have never shared the highbrow 
attitude of those men of letters who despise mechani- 
cal progress. Some years ago, I read of your first 
official tour in Sicily, when you drove your own car. 
I was interested and attracted. Although, up to then, 
I had been extremely sceptical about all that was 
going on in Fascist Italy, I realised, of a sudden, that 
your action was symbolical. It was obvious to me 
that you wanted to give your people a demonstra- 
tion of what guidance meant/* 

With a nod he rejoined: "Most of the objections 
to technical progress lack justification. This prod- 
uct of the human mind has achieved great re- 
sults. Where should we be without great ships, huge 
iron bridges, tunnels, airplanes? Is man to become 
retrogressive, to return to the bullock cart of an- 
tiquity, when he has the motor car, which is so much 
quicker, more convenient, and more dependable? 
Where people err is in their perpetual endeavour 



to 'go one better 5 and to rival one another in sitting 
longest on the branch of a tree or dancing longest 
without a pause/* 

"Doesn't it seem to you very remarkable that the 
inhabitants of such a country as the United States, 
where democracy has prevailed for a hundred and 
fifty years, should have so little interest in political 
aflfairs?" ; 

"That only shows how capitalism destroys the 
political instinct. The country in which capitalism 
has reached its climax is the most unpolitical in the 
world. Every four years the inhabitants arise from 
their slumbers to get excited about some such ques- 
tion as whether more liquor shall be drunk or less. 
Then the defeated candidate wires congratulations 
to the elected president. Fair play, perhaps; but it is 
not political warfare/* 

"Well," I said, "those conditions are peculiarly 
American. But why, the world over, are there so 
few capable statesmen at a moment when there 
is such urgent need of them?" 

"Because political life is to-day far more com- 
plicated than it used to be. Furthermore, capitalism 
has swallowed political interest. Now the world is 
only interested in money. People think of nothing 
but their own money and that of others. Vanished 


are the days when all Europe paid close attention to 
the speeches of Peel or Disraeli; or even to those of 
Jaures and Clemenceau! "When political matters are 
discussed on the wireless, they listen to a sentence 
or two and then switch off. Nobody studies politics. 
The people do not want to rule, but to be ruled, 
and to be left in peace. Were there more great states- 
men in Europe, there would be less partisanship." 

I questioned him about Germany, comparing the 
Germans and the Americans in respect of industry 
and efficiency. 

"The Germans have achieved wonders during the 
last decade/* said Mussolini. 

"How do you account for the present collapse 
of Germany?" 

"Germany was beaten by a world-wide coalition." 

"But do you not think that the happenings of the 
last half century in Germany were indirect causes 
of the present trouble?" 

He hesitated a while, looked at me searchingly, 
and then said, slowly and decisively: 

"Everything that Bismarck achieved during the 
thirty years of his rule was useful to Germany. It is 
a matter of supreme importance to a statesman that 
he should be in power for a long time. "What you 
wrote the other day about Beethoven and Shakes- 



peare applies to political life as well, and Bismarck 
had plenty of time." 

"What do you think of German policy during 
the first years after the war? Do you think that 
Germany was right to accept the situation without 
any attempt at resistance?" 

"What else could she do? In view of the fierce 
hatred of Germany which prevailed during those 
years, and of the fact that the alliance against her 
was still in being, any attempt to resist would have 
had the most disastrous consequences. Rathenau, 
whose acquaintance I made in the year 1922, was 
one of the ablest statesmen Europe has had during 
the last quarter of a century. As to what I thought 
of Stresemann, I expressed my high opinion of him 
at the time of his death. He succeeded in freeing the 
Rhine five years earlier than the date fixed by the 

"Was he not the obverse of Mussolini?" I en- 

Mussolini regarded me with astonishment and I 
went on: 

"He moved forward from nationalism to inter- 

"But the situation of the two men was so differ- 
ent," said he. 



"Because the character of the two nations is so 
different/' I rejoined. "The Fascists are fond of talk- 
ing about the Prussian discipline of pre-war days, 
and yet that was the time when Prussia had the 
strongest Socialist party in the world/ 3 

He smiled, knitted his brows, and assumed a rather 
sly look, saying, "There is a good deal of Prussianism 
in German Socialism. My impression has been that 
that explains why German Socialists are so disci- 

"You think, then, that Fascism could be exported 
to Germany?" 

"Nowhither," he answered. "It is a purely Italian 
growth. Still, some of its ideas could be adapted to 
German conditions: the organisation of occupations 
in groups and the organisation of these groups in 
relation to the State. In your country, the way to a 
corporative system has already been opened up by 
the establishment of large-scale organisations and 
there is but one more step to take. In addition, you 
could control both capital and labour." 

"You said to me once," I rejoined, "that the Ital- 
ians had been critical for too long and that now it 
was time for them to learn to obey. The Germans, 
on the other hand, have been obedient for several 
centuries and it is surely time for them to become 



critical once more. That is why we would rather 
have five hundred mediocrities in the Reichstag than 
one outstanding leader. The Germans have a pas- 
sion for obedience, so we don't want Fascism in our 
land. Besides, the complete lack of leaders of your 
sort shows that the Teople of Thinkers/ though it 
can produce the great teachers of dictatorship 
(Marx, Hegel, and Nietzsche) , cannot give birth 
to a dictator. That is why the Germans never make 
an effective revolution." 

"But what about Luther?" asked Mussolini. 

"Yes, he was an exception to the rule. He was 
successful. All the same, in order to avoid using the 
ominous word revolution we, somewhat shame- 
facedly, call his work the Reformation. You re- 
member that when, in the 'sixties, Napoleon III 
asked Bismarck whether a revolution was to be ex- 
pected in Prussia, Bismarck replied that in Prussia 
only the king made revolutions." 

Mussolini returned to the problem of dictator- 
ship in a way I had not anticipated. 

"Of all the forms of dictatorship," he said, "Ger- 
many prefers the one which is exercised by a pow- 
erful bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that is thor- 
oughly well organised and lives somewhat apart 
from the world. With you, moreover, dictatorship 


is not embodied in a man, or even in a number of 
men, on show in the shop windows. Sometimes you 
have a dictatorship in the form of joint-stock com- 
panies. Thus your dictatorships range from cartels 
to a dictatorship of the civil servants. You have 
Holstein on one side and Krupp or Thyssen on the 

"The world, looking askance at us/ 3 said I, "thinks 
of us as the Two Germanys. You have sketched 
one of them. The other is the Germany whose gift 
to mankind was the two greatest thinkers of the 
nineteenth century, Goethe and Nietzsche. Did you 
yourself, during the war, lose touch with this sec- 
ond Germany?" 

"Never for a moment. That I cannot lose.** 



! we were flying across the Pontine Marshes, the 
small unenclosed airplane descended to a level of 
about three hundred feet and, in the gesture lan- 
guage of aviators, the pilot drew my attention to 
the ground beneath, which had already been drained. 
Under Mussolini's regime, there is now being com- 
pleted on the grand scale a work which two thou- 
sand years ago the Romans and subsequently the 
popes had vainly attempted. An area of hundreds 
of square miles in which, up till now, no one had 
been able to live, except for a few months in the 
shooting season, when the hunters inhabiting the 
surrounding hills spent a nomadic existence there, 
has at length been rendered habitable, with the re- 
sult that in ten years or so there will be a population 
of many thousands in a region which has hitherto 
been rendered deadly by malaria. All this country- 
side was now spread beneath my eyes like a map. 
I could see the parallel lines marking the new plough- 
lands, could recognise the main canals and their 



feeders, dug in order to drain the marsh waters away 
into the sea. 

A few days later I made a motor excursion 
through the same district, accompanied by Musso- 
lini and hundreds of Fascists; but this was a tumul- 
tuous affair and was much less instructive than my 
cursory view from the airplane. 

I had already told him of my previous visit and 
had brought with me the concluding part of 
"Faust," in which the dying centenarian says: 

"A morass stretches towards the mountains, 
Poisoning all that has been wrested from the wild; 
To make an end of this pestilential swamp 
Would be a supreme achievement. 
It would provide dwelling space for millions, 
Not to live without risk, but in free activity/* 

Since Mussolini always retains that feeling for 
symbolical activity which I regard as characteristic 
of men of outstanding intelligence, he was very 
much struck by the parallelism with Faust and 
slowly read the German verses aloud. 

At length, when we came to a place where seventy 
tractors were stationed in two rows to start in oppo- 
site directions and plough the ancient soil for the 



first time, he called me to his side, waved his hand 
at the machines, and said: 

"There you have the centenarian Faust!" 

"Each of those tractors costs less than a big gun," 
I answered drily. 

"Costs less than firing a big gun!" said he, to cap 
my criticism, and laughed. 

This was the best moment of that excursion* On 
a second excursion I watched him mounting the 
outside steps of a small works office. He stood there 
for some time in silence, reading a printed notice 
posted on the wall, the wage scale of the masons. As 
he did this, I could not but feel that his action was 
symbolical of the tie between his youth as a mason 
and his present position as a ruler. 

"When, that same evening, we were once more 
seated together in conversation on either side of the 
great writing table, having returned from the clam- 
our of the photographers in the Campagna to the 
peace of this great hall, I improved the occasion by 
referring to what I had seen that day. 

"Do you remember how, in the t evening of his 
life at St. Helena, Napoleon spoke of the most effec- 
tive upshot of his career? He referred to dams and 
canals, to harbours and roads, to factories and dwel- 
ling places mentioning them all by name, a list 


that fills a whole page. The names of the battles he 
had fought disappeared behind these great humani- 
tarian achievements. Is it not true that things of 
the same sort are what have given you the greatest 
satisfaction? Have you not long had a desire for 
such constructive work?" 

"For decades," he answered gently. 

"In the face of such an avowal," I said, "I am less 
alarmed by the Fascist demand for more territory. 
I have never been able to believe that you could 
think the happiness of a nation depended upon the 
extent of its domains. All the more, then, do I find 
it difficult to understand why, in a comparatively 
small and thickly populated country, you lay so 
much stress upon the multiplication of births. I 
should have thought that Malthusianism was more 
necessary in Italy than almost anywhere else in the 

Mussolini suddenly flamed up in wrath. Never be- 
fore or afterwards did I see him lose his self-com- 
mand in this way. Speaking twice as fast as usual, 
he flung his arguments at me like missiles. 

"Malthus! Economically, Malthusianism is a 
blunder, and morally it is a crime! A reduction in 
population brings poverty in its train! When the 
population of Italy was only sixteen millions, the 



country was poorer than it is to-day, when we have 
forty- two million inhabitants. These two-and-f orty 
millions are much better off than half their numbers 
who lived under the papacy, under Venice, or under 
Naples impoverished and uncultured as they 
were! Thirty years ago I came to realise that in my 
own home! Manufacturing industry needed edu- 
cated workers and productivity has increased a 

"The same everywhere," said I, "and not in 
Italy alone. As regards the strength of a nation, 
France, with her two-children system, has shown 
what a country with a restricted population can do 
when she must." 

"France proves nothing!" he cried; the heat of 
his rejoinder showing that my objection was one 
he had often heard. "France would have been utterly 
smashed had not half the world come to her help. 
Besides, consider this. If in the year 1914, France had 
had fifty-five million inhabitants instead of thirty- 
five, Germany would never have declared war!" 

"Such being your views views which I do not 
share I can understand why in Italy the pro- 
curing of abortion is treated as a crime, though in 
Germany such an attitude has become obsolete." 

Still white with anger, he thundered back: 


"The Russians can do as they like in that respect, 
for it does not matter to them whether their in- 
crease in population be three millions a year or five 
millions or only one. Still, not to have a rapid in- 
crease in population implies a restriction of national 
power. In this, we and the Russians are poles 

"Here I am on the side of the Russians," I an- 
swered. "Among them, women and men have an 
equal standing in public life." 

This remark only made matters worse. He an- 
swered more stubbornly than ever: 

"Woman must play a passive part. She is ana- 
lytical, not synthetical. During all the centuries of 
civilisation has there ever been a woman architect? 
Ask her to build you a mere hut, not even a temple; 
she cannot do it. She has no sense for architecture, 
which is the synthesis of all the arts; that is a sym- 
bol of her destiny. My notion of woman's role in, the 
State is utterly opposed to feminism. Of course I 
do not want women to be slaves, but if here in 
Italy I proposed to give our women votes, they 
would laugh me to scorn. As far as political life is 
concerned, they do not count here. In England 
there are three million more women than men, but 
in Italy the numbers of the two sexes are the same. 


Do you know where the Anglo-Saxon countries are 
likely to end? In a matriarchy!" 

Since in this matter he was not open to argument, 
I alluded to a point of detail. 

"I think, however, that the Fascist State does 
quite as much for the mother of an illegitimate child 
as for any married woman?" 

"We do as much for mothers as any country in 
Europe. The mother of an illegitimate child is often 
in far greater need than a married woman." 

Turning from this contentious point on the posi- 
tion of women to the position of labour in Italy 
as compared with Russia, I asked him whether it 
was true that in the Carta del Lavoro he had him- 
self inserted a clause to the effect that private ini- 
tiative was the most effective stimulus to produc- 

"That is so," he answered, calming down. "But I 
also insisted that when private initiative fails, the 
State must intervene. The Carta del Lavoro lies 
outside the range of capitalism." 

"You have spoken of the 'Balilla* as your favourite 
child. Is not this method of education a danger to 
the family? And wherein lies the distinction be- 
tween the Fascist system of education and the edu- 
cation of children by the Soviets?" 



"Here in Italy," lie answered, "we educate them 
in accordance with the ideal of the nation, whereas 
in Russia children are brought up in accordance 
with the ideals of a class. Still, the ultimate aim is 
identical. Both in Italy and in Russia the individual 
is subordinated to the State. My aim is, by degrees, 
by choice of the best specimens, to establish an 

"If you want to do that," said I, "you must en- 
roll the best energies of the nation in the teaching 
profession. If I had to rule a State, the schoolteachers 
would be the best paid of all the civil servants, for 
they hold the future in their hands, and I should 
want to attract the best intelligences into that pro- 

"Our teachers," he answered, "are paid ten times 
as much as when I was myself a teacher thirty years 

"I have read that Pelizzi has written about the 
dangers of obedience and that you disapproved of 
his remarks." 

"Only in this sense," he replied, "that children 
and soldiers must understand what they are ordered 
to do. A command must not be absurd. Those who 
receive it must feel that it is reasonable. Always the 
interpretation is the main thing, not the order it- 



self. There is inevitably something cold, something 
corpselike about the law. Practice, on the other 
hand, is a human affair, differentiated, full of fine 
shades. Laws are only a part of human practice and 
not the most important part." 



BEFORE beginning to discuss the Church, I spoke 
of a Roman cleric who had played a great part in the 
negotiations before and after the reconciliation. The 
difference in the conversational tone had been dis- 
astrous. This venerable priest had behaved as if the 
world knew nothing whatever about the difficulties 
and dissensions between the two powers. He ignored 
them almost completely in the past and wholly in the 
present. He was the powerful but humble Jesuit 
whom we know from Schiller's plays and from 
French novels. 

Returning to the question of the temporal power, 
I began with Cavour's saying, ff libera chiesa in li- 
bero stato" (a free Church in a free State), and 
asked Mussolini whether he accepted the notion. 

"Quite unrealisable with the Catholic Church," 
he retorted. "If you look closely into the phrase, 
you will see that it has no meaning. There are only 
two possibilities: complete separation of the two 
powers, the State ignoring the Church; or else the 



State joins hands with the Church for the control 
of matters of common concern. Both the State and 
the Church have to deal with the same materials, 
human beings, the former as citizens, the latter as 
believers. I have tried various ways. In the year 1923 
I wanted to give the Popolari five seats in the gov- 
ernment. Don Sturzo brought that scheme to 
naught. He fancied that he would be able to play 
with me the game he had played with Giolitti, so I 
bundled him out, neck and crop." 

This was the first time I had heard Mussolini use 
so strong and vernacular an expression about one 
of his enemies which made me suppose that he 
must have been very much annoyed with Sturzo. 

"But T^hy did you postpone the reconciliation 
for another five years?" I asked. 

"It was necessary," he said, "that we should have 
plenty of time in which to clear up all disputed 
questions, which were of an extremely delicate na- 
ture. Not only that! When the headquarters of the 
Church are entirely enclosed within the capital of 
the State, there are geographical and topographical 
difficulties as well. The capital of the State, and 
within it a town which belongs to another power! 
Forty-four hectares at least!" 

"Father Ehrle, the German priest who is now a 


cardinal, showed me his map of the Vatican State 
in the year 1920. At that time he was out of favour 
with Pope Benedict because he had published it dur- 
ing the war. Do you know that in your negotiations 
with the papacy you achieved something entirely 
new in history?" 

Mussolini looked at me inquiringly. 

"Never before, you must admit," I continued, 
"had two independent and absolute rulers living in 
the same town conferred together for three years 
without setting eyes on each other." 

Laughing good-humouredly, he said: 

"Well, I have visited the Pope now." 

About this visit to the Vatican, gossip had been 
rife in Rome. It was said that Mussolini had kneeled 
and had kissed the Pope's hand. But, visiting him 
after the reconciliation, I found him filled with 
animus against the Pope and had doubted the ru- 
mour. The matter had a human interest for me, so 
I approached it from the flank, saying: 

"I myself visited the last two popes and found 
that the formalities they prescribed were entirely 
different in the two cases. This made me wonder 
whether a man with a proper pride who is not a 
believer ought to comply with these formalities." 

"In general," answered Mussolini, "I Mo as the 


Romans do/ That is to say, I accept the customs of 
a country where I am being entertained. At the 
Vatican, I was left to follow my own bent." 

"Do you believe," I went on, "that a Catholic 
statesman can get on better with the Church than 
one who is not a believer?" 

"You must distinguish in this matter between a 
believer and one who is a practising Catholic. Be- 
yond question power and harmony are promoted 
for a statesman if he adheres to the religion of the 
majority of his fellow countrymen. But active par- 
ticipation in a ritual is a personal matter. For in- 
stance, it is reported that the Minister of State who 
expelled the Jesuits from Spain attends mass daily." 

"In your youth," said I, "you wrote some very 
fine things in the Nietzschean vein. For instance: 
'When Rome passed beneath the sway of Jesus, the 
dynasty of rulers, perhaps the only great dynasty 
in history, fell.' On another occasion, you wrote of 
Christianity that thanks to it, Europe had become 
impotent of will and yet had not been made reaction- 
ary enough to defend feudalism. Last of all, you said 
that new, free, lonely, warlike spirits, equipped 
with a certain noble perversion, had come to liber- 
ate us from altruism." 



"That last sentence was Nietzsche's, not mine," 
he interrupted. 

"No/ 3 1 objected, "it was yours." 

We argued vigorously as to the authorship of the 
remark. Then he passed on to consider the problem 
implicit therein to consider it undismayed and 
with the most perfect frankness. Obviously there 
was in him a conflict between the statesman and the 
revolutionist, between the head of the government 
now reconciled with the Church, on the one hand, 
and the man's defiant spirit, on the other, 

"My position in this matter is difficult," said he, 
"for the historical outlook cannot be squared with 
the religious one. The Romans were beati, forti. 
Later they were deboli ed ignoranti. The last shall 
be first. Slaves revolt. Of course Nietzsche was 

After a pause and an almost inaudible sigh, he 
went on: 

"But when I consider the affair as a whole, per- 
haps the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. 
The general influence of Christianity was certainly 
good. A progressive phase in the history of man- 
kind. If Christianity had failed to make its way 
into imperial Rome, it would never have become 



a widely diffused religion. I am firmly convinced 
of this. Let me add that everything must have hap- 
pened by the dispensation of Providence. First the 
Roman Empire, then the birth of Jesus, Paul ship- 
wrecked on the coast of Malta, and at length brought 
to Rome. Thus, it was predetermined by that Provi- 
dence which guides all." 

I was contemplating a man who, for me, was at 
the moment a new Mussolini. Certainly there was 
no other place in the world in which he was so keenly 
interested as in Rome and it seemed that he regarded 
himself as a fragment of Roman history. The ex- 
pression of his face indicated as much during the 
utterance of those last sentences. I was careful, there- 
fore, not to interrupt his reflections until he raised 
his head, looked at me with a friendly smile, and 
seemed ready for a new question. 

"Goethe," said I, "and subsequently Mommsen, 
spoke of the universal idea which has been incorpo- 
rated in Rome/* 

"Yes/* he said, speaking now in a different tone, 
with more logic and less enthusiasm; "that is why 
it would perhaps have been better for the Germans 
if Arminius had been defeated at the battle in the 
Teutoberg forest. Was it not Kipling who wrote- 
that the nations which had not been trained under 


the Roman rule were like boys who had never been 
to school?" 

"But to-day/* I rejoined, "you surely cannot think 
it possible to make Rome once again the centre of 
the world?" 

"Centre of the world only in this sense, that his- 
tory has thickened around it to a preponderant de- 
gree. Jerusalem and Rome what other cities can 
compare with these in that respect?" 

"Apropos, listen to what I once heard a notable 
man say" (I purposely, for the moment, concealed 
the name of the speaker, wishing Mussolini to listen 
to the epigram without prejudice) : 'It was Luther 
who lost the Great War!* " 

"Interesting. Who said that?" 

"The late Pope, Benedict XV." 

"Well, certainly he was a great pope," replied 

"At Christmastide I used to find the Roman 
churches full," said I. "Until recently they were 
packed in Russia likewise. But now, a decade later, 
the churches of Russia are empty. Do you believe 
that the Christian faith will endure?" 

"When I look at Spain, I see that the position of 
the faith is critical In Spain, too, the churches used 
to be full to bursting. To-day religion persists but 



it is superficial rather than deep. All the same, we 
have to recognise that the war and the world crisis 
have aroused or strengthened religious sentiment in 
certain temperaments. Individuals here and there, 
even army officers, even a German prince, have now 
become deeply religious." 

"Recently you spoke with immense admiration 
o Julius Cxsar, but placed Jesus above him. That 
is, if I did not take you up wrongly?" 

"Jesus was the greater," he answered; "Caesar 
comes in the second place. Just think! To start a 
movement which has lasted two thousand years, 
which has four hundred million adherents, many of 
them poets and philosophers! This is unparalleled. 
And Rome is the centre whence the movement radi- 
ated. Yet it is a very remarkable fact that the most 
humane among the Roman emperors were the 
fiercest persecutors of the Christians." 

"Yesterday," I said, "when I was contemplating 
the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the 
Capitol, I recalled a saying of his which I last read 
under remarkable circumstances, namely, inscribed 
as a motto in Cecil Rhodes* villa near Capetown: "Do 
not forget that you are a Roman; but bear in mind, 
also, that you are an emperor. 9 " 





HE fine rooms which were usually empty when 
I passed through them on my way to talk with Mus- 
solini were made lively this evening by the presence 
of twenty or thirty men engaged in good-humoured 
discussion, after the manner of bank directors in the 
prosperous old days when, after a brief committee 
meeting, they were about to sit down to an excel- 
lent luncheon. These visitors had come to see the 
chief about the foundation of a Citta Academica 
in Rome and seemed to have been greatly pleased 
by their reception. 

When Mussolini made excuses for having had to 
put me off for an hour, I told him what had passed 
through my mind as I glanced at them on my way 
to him. Certainly all who came to see him, whether 
as individuals or as deputations, must bring their 
whole ego to his writing table. 

"Nevertheless," I continued, "you yourself al- 
ways look so marvellously unperturbed. How on 
earth do you manage to keep so fresh amid all the 


trifles that come to worry you, constructing, so to 
say, a marriage out of a passion? Don't you find that 
the confusion of detail tends to dim your first vision 
of the State?" 

Here I found him, a minute after the talk about 
the Citta Academica, with a mind unstressed; to- 
day, as on previous occasions, the sudden change 
from the practical to the platonic seemed to invigor- 
ate him, as if he had passed out of a room into the 
open air. 

"No doubt the danger you speak of is real 
enough," he replied. "Daily practise can sterilise the 
mind. To avoid this, a man must continually remain 
in touch with the living and breathing nature of 
the masses and of individuals. Then he will keep 
his imaginative impetus alive and will escape the 
barrenness of bureaucracy. Nothing can be more 
soul-deadening than bureaucracy, from which all 
administrations suffer. I try to avert the evil by 
continually thinking of the human side of affairs, 
of man with his needs and his duties, his weakness 
and his greatness." 

"When you look back upon those earlier visions 
of yours, a dozen years in the past, do you find that 
what you have achieved is conformable with what 
you used to plan?" 



"An interesting question," he said, and pondered 
a while before he answered. "No/ 5 he continued, "I 
do not find myself in the street I had expected to 
enter. But I am still the same traveller as of old. If 
I am on a new road, that is because history has willed 
it. Yet I am the same individual as ever." 

"Then experience always leads to modifications 
in the original plan?" 

"Of course! Human beings, the materials upon 
which the statesman works, are living matter. That 
is why he is engaged upon a task very different from 
that of the sculptor, who works in marble or in 
bronze. My material is changeable, complex, sub- 
ject to the influence of the dead and also to the in- 
fluence of women. The whole substance is so plastic 
that inevitably the consequences of action will dif- 
fer at times from what the doer had expected." 

"Why do you speak of the influence of women?" 
I inquired. 

He never smiled when I tried out one of these 
futile questions in the hope of "drawing" him. Our 
previous talks had made me well acquainted with 
his hostility to women playing any part in political 

"Women's influence is to me an unsolved prob- 
lem. On the whole, I am of Weininger's way of 



thinking, although he exaggerated towards the last. 
I learned a great deal from Weininger's book/ 3 

"It seems to me/* I said, "that, like many histori- 
cal figures I have studied, there is too much of the 
poet in you for you to act in decisive moments 
otherwise than intuitively, to act on impulse, on in- 

"You are right. The march on Rome was unques- 
tionably an inspiration of that sort. At a meeting 
in Milan, on October 16th, we decided to undertake 
it. But the date for the march, October 28th, I chose 
all of a sudden, for I felt that a single day's further 
delay might ruin the whole affair. The march on 
Rome was only possible on that day." 

He was silent for a while, deep in his memories; 
then, preferring, after his manner, to be exact rather 
than emotional, he added, "Perhaps." 

"I suppose, then," said I, "that you are both led 
and disturbed by premonitions/* 

"Yes, led and troubled as well. They are sub- 
conscious in origin, these feelings, both bodily and 
mental. In the summer, I sense the coming of 
autumn. I have ominous f oreshadowings, too, now 
and again; and there are many days when I feel 
averse to beginning a new venture. On October 
31, 1926, when I was in Bologna, the spiritual at- 



mosphere seemed to me so oppressive that through- 
out the day I was anticipating disaster. In the eve- 
ning there was an attempt on my life." 

"Why did you not at that time have special meas- 
ures organised to protect yourself against such oc- 

"Because I am a thoroughgoing fatalist." 

"If you were logical in this matter, you would 
forbid the police to organise any kind of protective 
measures in your behalf." 

"Protective measures," he replied, "can only be 
effective within limits. I always leave wide scope for 
the unforeseen, be it good or be it bad." 

"Even as regards your decisions in matters of 

"There, above all. A law may have the very op- 
posite results from those expected by the law- 

"The real is intertwined with the purely imag- 
inative in these matters," said I. "I infer that you 
believe in talismans. All introspective persons make 
their own superstitions." 

"Oh, yes," he replied. "I have superstitions." 

"I have been told that when you heard of Lord 
Carnarvon's death, you promptly ridded yourself 
of a mummy which had been presented to you, in 



the belief that this death was due to revenge taken 
by the unseen powers for the violation of the Egyp- 
tian tomb." 

"In that case I was not actuated by superstition," 
said Mussolini. "People ought not to cart about dead 
bodies in such a way. It is a profanation." 

"You have written a very fine description of your 
youth. I think it is the best work from your pen. 
Strange, is it not, that the same is true of Trotsky? 
When, in this connection, I recall the imaginative 
writings of Napoleon and others, it seems to me to 
confirm the view that poetic fire is an essential in- 
gredient of the man of action if he is to be truly 

"First, last, and all the time," said Mussolini, "a 
statesman needs imagination. Without it he will be 
arid and will in the long run effect nothing. Nor 
does he stand alone in this need. Without imaginative 
feelings, without poesy as part of his make-up, no 
one can achieve anything." 

"But what now saves you from letting your im- 
agination run away with you?" 


"Unquestionably you are an artist in the use of 
words. Nor can I think of Napoleon, for instance, 
as having made a success of his career without this 



art. Some of his manifestos and speeches won as 
much for him as victories in the field/* 

"For the ruler," said Mussolini, "the power of the 
written or spoken word is of inestimable value. He 
must always be able to suit the word to the occasion. 
He must be impressive and vigorous when speaking 
to the crowd; logical at a public meeting; familiar 
when he is addressing a small group. Many politi- 
cians make the mistake of always talking in the same 
tone. Of course, when I am in the Senate I do not 
use the same language as that which I regard as ap- 
propriate for the open-air meeting/* 

"I gather, then* that you believe in the kinship 
between the poet and the statesman a kinship I 
have myself so often detected when studying these 
two types. Do you think it possible that the drama- 
tist can pave the way for the statesman? Do you 
believe that in general a playwright is the herald of 
a revolution?" 

"Beyond question," said Mussolini. "First as a 
thinker and as a man with a richly developed imag- 
ination, the poet is almost always a prophet as well, 
'the mirror of the gigantic shadows which futurity 
casts upon the present/ Dante is a signal instance of 
this. He foreshadowed the liberation of the mind 
which was then about to begin. But in one respect 

I differ from you; a poet is not the herald of a specific 
revolution. The course to be taken by a revolution 
cannot be accurately predicted; its outlines are con- 
tinually reshaping themselves. Thinkers and poets 
are like stormy petrels; they feel that a storm is 
brewing, but do not know from what quarter the 
wind will blow or what changes it will induce. Take 
the Encyclopaedists for example. They wanted the 
enfranchisement of the subordinated classes but 
they could not foresee the actual lines of develop- 
ment. Down to the last, Mirabeau remained a royal- 
ist. Even Danton had monarchical inclinations, and 
was not, to begin with, an advocate of a republic. 
Arthur Young, whose "Travels in France 9 were made 
just before and during the first movements of the 
Revolution, wrote that every one was in a mood of 
expectation. He had talked with all and sundry, and 
the impression he derived from these conversations 
was the existence of a universal belief that something 
important was about to happen, but that there was 
no definite conception as to its nature." 

"In the days when you yourself wrote books, had 
you the contented feeling of the creator, or were 
you merely animated with the resignation of the 
writer and with the hope of being able to act at some 
future date?" 



'*Why do you speak of resignation?" he asked, 
struck by the term. 

"To begin with, I was discontented with being no 
more than a writer. It took me a long time to become 
reconciled with this passive role and to be able to 
console myself with the thought of Byron, whose 
poems some one spoke of as undelivered parliamen- 
tary speeches." 

He nodded his understanding and replied, "True 
enough, but the remark does not apply to young 
people. In youth, to write is a sort of mental train- 
ing, whereby the pupil learns to contemplate things 
in their manif oldedness. This is true even when what 
is written subsequently encounters resistance in the 
world of reality, either because it is unpractical or 
because it is premature. At eighteen, every one 
writes verses. In early youth, we are phrase slaves. 
For a young man, a phrase is like a pretty woman 
with whom he falls in love. At forty, one faces up 
to the facts of life." 

"What do you think of the books you wrote in 

" 'The History of the Cardinals' is fustian. It was 
written with a political bias and intended for pub- 
lication as a newspaper feuilleton. Political propa- 



"It is clear to me that the poetical side of your 
nature has continued to influence you in your career 
of action, persisting as a sort of analysis of your ego. 
During the decisive days of October, 1922, you de- 
scribe how the echo of the Royal Guards resounded 
through the deserted streets of Milan." 

With an eager gesture of assent, he said, "I have 
always been aware of such a twofold strain of feel- 
ing and I turn it to account in self-examination/ 5 

"erhaps," I rejoined, "at different times you take 
divergent views of your own actions? When Napo- 
leon was First Consul, he said that he had risen to 
power owing to the incompetence of the Directory 
and that his only object had been to restore order. 
But when he had become Emperor, he gave a very 
different explanation." 

"Of course," answered Mussolini. "When one has 
reached a new position, one looks back upon the 
road from a different angle." Then, with a shade of 
rancour, he remarked, "For my part, certainly, it 
was not my sole aim to establish order!" 

"In that respect you differ from one who is purely 
a poet. D'Annunzio, in an avowal which was ex- 
clusively poetical, told me that his only reason for 
going to Fiume was in order to act." 

"You cannot regard that as a political standard," 

said the Duce. "Politics, after all, are a means and 
not an end." 

"Nevertheless," I insisted, "in your early days you 
wrote more than once: 'The upshot o the battle is 
but a secondary matter. The struggle is its own re- 
ward, even if one should be defeated/ That is the 
language of the poet's fine frenzy, the speech of 
youth. Do you no longer believe it?" 

Mussolini, who had punctuated my words with 
nods of assent, now set his jaw, as if determine4 not 
to allow himself to be robbed of the ideals of his 
youth, and said: 

"Unquestionably I still believe it, heartily! You 
touch the core of the Fascist philosophy. When, re- 
cently, a Finnish thinker asked me to expound to 
him the significance of Fascism in a single sentence, 
I wrote: 'Life must not be taken easily!* " 

"I am right, then, in thinking that you regard 
your actions symbolically?" 

"That is a matter of the form in which life shapes 
itself. In the absence of symbolism, it would be a 
casual matter, undiflferentiated." 

"You would, then, approve one of Napoleon's 
farewell sayings: 'What a ballad my life has been!' " 


"Do you think that now, after such multifarious 


experiences, you could describe men'better were you 
once more to take up your pen?" 

"Much better!" he replied emphatically. "But 
you, how would you classify human beings?" 

"Under two heads," I answered; "as active and 

He drew his chair up close to the table, laid his 
arms on it, and said with a touch of irony, "I classify 
them primarily into those whom I like and those 
whom I dislike. On that point I form my opinions 
promptly, by a study of their faces. But there are 
numerous other categories: for instance, the opti- 
mists, whom I further divide into a number of sub- 
classes. Then there are the people with fine sympa- 
thies, those who grasp reality with a vigorous 
understanding that reminds one of the eagerness 
with which a bee sucks honey from a flower. But 
there are others who have to be crushed by truth 
before they can begin to understand it. I have ex- 
perienced as much myself. That is one of the ways 
in which one comes to master reality." 

Such decisive utterances often come from Mus- 
solini as an afterthought. At these times he looks 
at his auditor fixedly, smiles, and seems to be asking 
whether all the enigmas of the universe have now 
been solved. Purposely ignoring the hint of mock- 



ery in his demeanour, I resumed with the utmost 

"But have you learned exclusively in the school of 
hard facts? We were talking just now of the might 
of poesy. When, in your box at the theatre, you 
watch Mark Antony or Caesar on the stage, is it with 
an indifferent smile or are you studying them with 

Turning half round in his chair, Mussolini picked 
an open volume from the top of a pile of books lying 
on a table behind him. 

"I have just been reading 'Julius Caesar 5 ," he said, 
pointing to a French translation of Shakespeare and 
fluttering the leaves. "A great school for rulers! As 
I read before you came in, I was thinking how 
during his last days even Caesar became a phrase- 

"Are you referring to the historical Caesar or to 

"I am afraid to the historical Caesar also," he said 
thoughtfully. "Why did he not look at the list of 
the conspirators when it was thrust into his hand? 
Maybe he allowed himself to be killed, feeling that 
he had reached the end of the tether. Anyhow, I 
listen attentively at the theatre and draw compari- 
sons with myself at this table. The fundamental 



problems of power have always been the same; how 
one rules and how one rules with the minimum of 

"Do you take Caesar as an exemplar?" 
"Not altogether," he answered, closing the vol- 
ume and thrusting it aside. "But the virtues of classi- 
cal Rome, the doings of the Romans of old, are al- 
ways in my mind. They are a heritage which I try 
to turn to good account. The matter I have to shape 
is still the same; and outside there is still Rome." 

He waved a hand towards the window, through 
whose greenish windowpanes the lamplight from 
the Piazza made its way into the room. 



LT is plain enough to me that pride is one of your 
fundamental character traits. But what is pride?" 

"Self-awareness," answered Mussolini. 

tf f Stolz 9 in German, like 'pride' in English, has 
two conflicting senses, a good one and a bad. The 
English speak of 'proper pride,' but at the other end 
of the scale the word shades off into 'arrogance.* 
What does the Italian term *alterigicf mean?" 

"'Arrogance,'" he answered; "pride of* the 
wrong sort." 

"I have never been able to understand," said I, 
"how a man of exceptional capacity can be proud 
of anything which he has not won by his own 
powers; how, for instance, he can be proud of his 
descent. Are you proud because in the thirteenth 
century your ancestors in Bologna had a coat of 
arms a fact which some one has dug up out of 
the archives?" 

His expression was disdainful as he rejoined: "Not 
the least in the world! The only one of my fore- 



fathers in whom I am interested is a certain Mus- 
solini who lived in Venice, killed his wife because 
she had been unfaithful, and then, before he fled 
from the city, laid two Venetian scudi on her bosom, 
to pay for her burial. Such is the character of the 
people of the Romagna whence I spring. All their 
folk songs are concerned with love tragedies." 

"I am glad," I said, "that you have not yet become 
a duke or anything of that sort. No doubt it is quite 
untrue that you have designed yourself a coat of 

"All nonsense!" (He spoke in English.) 
"Of what incident in your career are you proud?" 
"That I was a good soldier," he replied unhesitat- 
ingly. "I mean by this that I showed fortitude and 
energy. Only when possessed of those qualities can 
a man stand gun fire." 

"In childhood," I went on, "your pride must have 
been sorely wounded at times." 

"It was bitter in the mouth," he answered. "At 
school we youngsters were fed in three detachments. 
I always had to sit in the lowest grade, amongst the 
poorest. It no longer troubles me to recall that there 
were ants in the bread given to the children of the 
third grade but the mere fact that we were thus 
graded at all still rankles." 



"Yet your sorrows had a productive reaction!" 

"Unquestionably! Such intolerable and unwar- 
ranted degradations make one who suffers them a 

"If such feelings of humiliation are to become 
nation-wide/* I said, "only he should voice them 
who takes over responsibility. During a speech in 
the Senate, in the year 1923 or 1924, you spoke feel- 
ingly about the matter, while accepting entire re- 
sponsibility. "What you said reads like but you 
will not believe me/* 

"Reads like what? 5 ' 

"Like a speech of Lassalle*s when he was defend- 
ing himself in court. Moreover, like Lassalle, you 
quoted Heraclitus/* 

"I admire Lassalle/* said Mussolini. "He was a man 
of first-class intelligence and endowed with far more 
imagination than Marx. That was why his vision 
of the days to come was far less catastrophic than 
that of Marx. Moreover, the final disaster, the duel 
in which he lost his life because of his passion for 
the beautiful Helene von Donnige, was but another 
proof of the vividness of his imagination/* 

"He is discredited for the Russians, nowadays, 
since new documents have come to light showing 
his relations with Bismarck. I dealt with that matter 



of Bismarck and Lassalle a good while back in a 
drama that was played on the German boards. But 
let me return to the matter of pride. I have been 
told that at the age of twenty you were arrested 
by the police in Zurich and subjected to anthropo- 
metrical examination." 

"In Berne." 

"Is it true that you were so angry that you ex- 
claimed in a fury: 'The day of veAgeance will 
come! 9 " 

"Yes, it is true," he replied. "This contumelious 
treatment struck sledge-hammer blows which 
were more useful to me than my adversaries sup- 

"Another anecdote I have heard relating to that 
period was that when an Italian made you a present 
of five lire you gave him an Arabian knife in re- 

"Yes," he said, "that happened in Yverdon a 
jackknife as long as this." (He indicated the length 
on his forearm.) "I should have hated the man if 
he had not accepted my gift in return for his 

"Among the many tales told of you, that one 
pleases me best," said I. "All the more do I find it 
hard to understand your theories or your feelings 


when you transfer your personal honour to a com- 
munity and when you speak o patriotism as a vir- 


He looked at me with surprise and inquired, 
"Why shouldn't I?" 

"Because it is the cheapest of phrases, one with 
which any one can deck himself out. Samuel John- 
son, the savage- tongued Englishman, said that patri- 
otism was the last refuge of a scoundrel." 

"You, assuredly, should not forget that every na- 
tion has a history. All the people that have a history 
have an honour peculiar to themselves. It is their 
heritage from their forefathers which justifies their 
existence. A nation that has produced Shakespeare, 
Goethe, or Pascal, one which has given Dante, 
Petrarch, Ariosto, to the world, has risen above the 
level of a nomadic tribe. For me, the honour of the 
nations consists in the contribution they have 
severally made to human civilization." 

"But do you think, then," I asked, "that this hon- 
our of which you speak ought to be defended by 
force of arms? Because Goethe, a citizen of the 
world, who loathed war, enriched the human race, 
is it needful that a million of young men should be 
destroyed by poison gas?" 

"Not all affronts are equally gross," he rejoined. 


"Besides, a great deal depends upon who utters an 
insult a journalist or a responsible statesman/* 

"You consider, apparently, that I am to regard as 
a virtue this primitive feeling, love of country, 
which is as natural as one's love for one's parents?" 

"To begin with," answered Mussolini, "patriot- 
ism is no more than a feeling. Sacrifice makes it a 
virtue. The virtue is greater in proportion to the 
magnitude of the sacrifice." 

"But the danger is," I countered, "that each na- 
tion tends, when feeling grows hot, to make a parade 
of its 'honour/ The world suffered the consequences 
in the case of German national arrogance, which 
had been artificially stimulated for a generation, un- 
til Europe in general lost its temper." 

"That was Germany's own affair," said Mussolini, 
drawing a line on the table with his finger. "If 
national feeling had become inflated among the 
Germans, here in Italy, on the other hand, there was 
too little of it. I have never spoken of the Italians 
as the salt of the earth but have merely insisted that 
we need as much light and space as other nations." 

"But suppose that, one fine day, the people, from 
excess of enthusiasm, take the bit between their 

He paused before answering, looked at me criti- 

cally, and then said, "That depends upon the au- 
thority of the leader/* 

"Three years ago you created much alarm in Eu- 
rope by a succession of bellicose speeches." 

"We had been greatly irritated. It was necessary 
for me to find out how far the nation would follow 
me in case of need. What you heard elsewhere in 
Europe was but the echo/* 

"There were counter-echoes as well/' said I. "It 
was greatly to Briand's credit that he made no an- 
swer! Even two years after the events, when I spoke 
to him about those weeks, he was still greatly 
troubled in mind/* 

Mussolini pays keen attention when he hears 
something new to him. One notices that he is storing 
the phrases in his memory. Now, without turning a 
hair, he said: 

"Briand was not one of Italy's enemies/' 

"Such impetuousness,*' said I, "with which you 
have at times alarmed Europe, contrasts strongly 
with the forbearance I have noticed in you on other 

Perceiving that I wished to steer the conversa- 
sation off the rocks, he changed his tone and attitude, 

"Thirty years ago, when I was a schoolmaster, I 


gave out as subject for an essay: "Slow and steady 
wins the race/ This pleased my chief. At about the 
same date I wrote my first newspaper article (no, 
it was my second) , and it was entitled: 'The Virtue 
of Patience/ The need for patience had already be- 
come plain to me. In truth, it is my way to prepare 
things long in advance. We are still in the beginning 
of April and I am already preparing my speech for 
the October festival." 

"But there are occasions when no preparation is 
possible. For instance, the Corfu affair." 

"The two techniques interlock. Patience and 
preparation, swift execution. The March on Rome 
could not have succeeded had it not been swift. 
When all the world believed that there would be 
trouble in Rome or in Florence, disturbances broke 
out in Pisa. That October evening, to hoodwink the 
world, I went to the theatre in Milan. They were 
playing Molnar's 'The Swan/ My proclamation had 
been ready since the 16th. I had given it to Chiavo- 
lini, for I regarded him as the most reticent of my 
associates. If the police had raided my house, I should 
have been arrested." 

"Why do you speak of your enterprise as unex- 
ampled in history?" 

"In Italian history," he amended. "If you want 

to find a precedent for mobilising Italy in order to 
march on Rome, you must go back centuries." 

"Suppose that one of your four generals, who, 
after all, had sworn fealty to the King, had changed 
his mind and opposed your march, what would you 
have done?" 

"We should have fought!" 

"What if you had failed?" 

"We had made no plans for the event of failure. 
It was impossible. How could I have acted if I had 
not regarded failure as impossible?" 

The two last answers were abrupt, incisive, hostile 
the hostility being directed, not against me, but 
against a sceptical world which seemed to voice it- 
self in my question. He spoke like a general who is 
rejuvenated by the memory of his most signal vic- 
tory. I chose my next question swiftly, wishing to 
hear the same tone once more. 

"But previously, during the year of disappoint- 
ment in which you were defeated in the elections, 
did it never enter your head that the whole affair 
might collapse?" 

"Never!" he exclaimed, as crisply as before. At 
such moments one seems near to understanding the 
tone and attitude of the man of indomitable will 
and also the intimate reasons for his success. Turn- 



ing over in my mind the oft-discussed problem of 
character and circumstances, I said: 

"To my own thinking, you have let circumstances 
drive you forward but never allowed them to hinder 
you. In my studies of history, I have only found this 
matter decisive in so far as it determines a trend in 
youth. If Bismarck or Cavour had sprung from the 
people, they would have hoisted the red flag with 
the same fervour as yourself." 

"Character and circumstances interact on each 
other. Neither can be fully effective without the 
other. Furthermore, good fortune favours the effi- 

"If you have always enjoyed this self-confidence, 
let me ask you what, pragmatically speaking, you 
have learned during these ten years of rule." 

He looked me full in the face, almost gratefully 
as it seemed an unusual expression with him. The 
fact is that, though Mussolini for the most part pre- 
fers to let his thoughts go unwatched, there are rare 
moments when (like all lonely thinkers) he delights 
in the luxury of being fully understood. After a 
short silence he resumed: 

"During the decade you speak of," he said, "I 
have developed. It has become ever more plain to me 
that action is of primary importance. This even 


when it is a blunder. Negativism, quietism, motion- 
lessness, is a curse, I advocate movement. I am a 

"But in these wanderings of yours, is your move- 
ment undulating, now up, now down, then up 
again?" I asked. "Or is it, rather, like the ascent of 
one of the Alps, when a wider and ever wider pros- 
pect opens to the climber?" 

"Yes," he said, "that is it. Climbing an Alp!" 



JL O my mind," said Mussolini, "architecture is 

the greatest of all the arts, for it is an epitome of 
all the others." 

"Extremely Roman," I interjected. 

"I, likewise, am Roman above all. Greeks have 
only attracted me as far as philosophy is concerned 
or, perhaps, I should add drama as well. I have al- 
ways been very much influenced by the drama. In 
my youth I was extremely fond of Schiller's *Wil- 
helm Tell' and wrote upon the subject. Of course 
I tried my hand at writing plays myself but none 
of them were finished. I began a play which was to 
be called 'The Unlit Lamp/ It was to be a social 
drama a la Zola, describing the fate of an impover- 
ished blind child. In another of my attempts, 'The 
Struggle of the Motors,' a manufacturing secret was 
stolen and, through the instrumentality of this mo- 
tif, the struggle of labour against capital was to be 



"Are you sorry or are you glad that these plays 
of yours were never finished?" 

"Substantially they were writings for the ar- 
rangement and the development of my own ideas. 
The sketching of them was much more important 
to me than the getting them finished and pro- 

"Nowadays, it would seem, you make sketches of 
plays for others to elaborate." 

"You are referring to the Napoleon drama? Let 
me tell you how that came about. Having read your 
'Napoleon,* I sent for Faranzo and said to him, *If 
no one has as yet made the proceedings at the Champ 
de Mai in the spring of 1815 the theme of a play, 
a great chance has been missed/ Thereupon I 
drafted a scenario. After reading a book on Cavour, 
I did the same thing in the case of the tragedy of 
Villafranca. The general view has been that this 
drama keeps too close to history to be regarded as 
imaginative writing." 

"I know the play," said I. "When, ten years ago, 
my Bismarck play was staged in Germany, I was torn 
to pieces by the critics, but the drama had a run of 
more than a thousand nights, for the public was 
eager to learn. Apropos, I am surprised you have not 
made more use of the cinema for propaganda pur- 



poses. The Fascist film which has been shown abroad 
is a worthless affair." 

"The Russians set us a good example there/* an- 
swered Mussolini. "Soon we shall have more money 
to spare for the cinemas. To-day the film is the 
strongest available weapon." 

Turning to the question of literature I said, "I 
am told that thirty years ago you were studying 
German literature." 

"For practice in German I read Klopstock's *Mes- 
sias/ It was the most tedious work I ever struck!" 

""Why on earth did you choose 'Messias,' which 
since Klopstock's days, no German has ever read 
from beginning to end?" 

"Oh, that was not the only mistake I made," he 
replied with a smile. "Influenced by Gomperz, I 
drafted a book on philosophy. All these early at- 
tempts have been committed to the flames, though 
I was rather too precipitate in burning a monograph 
upon the origins of Christianity, which I think may 
have been. pretty good." 

"We have better writers in Germany than Gom- 
perz and Klopstock! Have you read much of 

"Not very much; but what I have read of his, I 
have studied thoroughly. Above all Taust' both 


parts. Heine, too, of whom I am extremely fond; 
and Platen, on whom I have written. Among 
D'Annunzio's plays, the two I like best are 'La figlia 
del Joris 5 and 'La Fiacola sotto il moggio. 5 I am a 
great admirer of Shaw, but sometimes find his f reak- 
ishness annoying. Pirandello writes Fascist plays 
without meaning to do so! He shows that the world 
is what we wish to make it, that it is our creation." 

"You still read a great deal, then? Do you make 
notes on what you read?" 

"I read all sorts of things," he said. "Often I make 
a note when I come across something good." 

From a drawer in the great writing table he took 
out a diary bound in red leather and showed me his 
daily record, sometimes half a page and sometimes 
a page. He had, so he told me, begun to write this 
in Rome nearly ten years before. Turning the pages 
of the manuscript volume, he read me some of the 
entries from recent weeks: 

"Finished the book on Robespierre and the Ter- 
ror. . . . Finished Poincare's book on Verdun. He 
criticises the Italians [there followed notes concern- 
ing the behaviour of some of the Italian regi- 
ments]. . . . Began a book upon Napoleon as jour- 
nalist. . . . Delighted with the Hungarian march 
in Berlioz* 'Faust*. . . . It is an error to suppose that 



deflation is a cause of the crisis, for it is only a conse- 
quence. The cause of the crisis is the hoarding of 
money. The capitalists are to blame for this, not the 
government. . . . Briand is dead. . . . He was not 
hostile to Italy. His death took place at the time 
when official France wanted to annul his policy of 
an understanding with us. Thus he outlived that pol- 
icy by a year. A talented man, full of ideas, but 
Poincare is right in regarding him as a bohemien. 
. . . Read Siegfried's book upon the crisis in Eng- 
land. On page 195 he says that England is like a ship 
anchored in European waters but always ready to 
sail away. . . . The Bank of St. George, founded in 
Genoa about 1200 A.D., was the first joint-stock 
company in the world." 

When he had closed the diary and laid it aside, I 
returned to the question of his chief models in litera- 
ture and asked him whether he had read much Dante. 

"Again and again; always, in fact. He was the 
first writer to give me a vision of greatness; and at 
the same time he showed me the heights to which 
poetry can attain," By a sudden transition, turning 
to more practical matters, he said genially, "I feel 
myself akin to Dante, owing to his partisanship, his 
irreconcilability. He would not even forgive his 
enemies when he met them in hell!" 



There was the familiar forward thrust of his ob- 
stinate jaw, and he seemed to be thinking of certain 
personal experiences. 

"You remind me of Bismarck," I remarked. "He 
once said, *I didn't get a wink of sleep all night. I 
was hating all the time!* " 

Mussolini grinned and I went on, waving my 
hand towards the window that gave on the Piazza, 
"But down below there, once upon a time, was an- 
other Roman who actually forgot the names of his 

"Julius Caesar," said Mussolini, in the thrilling 
tones I had heard him use more than once when ut- 
tering this name. "The greatest man that ever lived. 
They wanted to bring him the head of his enemy 
Pompey, but Caesar gave Pompey an imposing fu- 
neral. Yes, I have a tremendous admiration for 
Caesar. But still," he went on grimly, "I myself be- 
long rather to the class of the Bismarcks." 

To divert him from this rancorous mood, I pro- 
ceeded to quote what Bismarck had once said about 
music a notable utterance. Music, declared the 
great Prussian statesman, aroused in him feelings of 
two different kinds: sometimes bellicose, sometimes 

"Same here," he answered. 


"Do you still play the violin?" I inquired. 

"Not for the last two years. At first it is refresh- 
ing but after a while it induces nervous exhaustion. 
If I play for half an hour, it soothes me, but in an 
hour I get excited and tired. It's like a poisonous 
drug, which may be useful in very small doses and 
is deadly in large ones. Friends and admirers have 
given me some very fine violins, but I have passed 
them on to young fellows who have talent and no 

"To a man of strong will," said I, "Wagner is 
a poison and not even an agreeable one. I would 
venture to wager that you are an admirer of Bee- 

"I can't stand "Parsifal*; but I am fond of the 
third act of Tristan*; and also of the earlier, more 
melodious works of Wagner 'Tannhauser' and 
'Lohengrin/ For us moderns, Beethoven still remains 
the greatest of all composers, especially as author of 
the Sixth Symphony, the Ninth Symphony, and the 
last of his quartettes. Still, Palestrina and his school 
are more congenial to me, although they are not in 
the same street with Beethoven." 

"Certainly no German would agree with you 
about Palestrina," I said. "How do you account for 
the fact that the most supra-national, the most un- 



material of all the arts, should nevertheless have na- 
tionalist affiliations?" 

"What could be more natural?" he rejoined. "If 
you were to put me in a darkened room where I 
could hear music being played close at hand, I 
would wager my ability to distinguish between Ger- 
man, French, Italian, and Russian music. The 
language of music is international but its essential 
nature is purely national. Music seems to me the pro- 
foundest means of expression for any race of man. 
This applies to executants as well as to composers. 
If we Italians play Verdi better than do Frenchmen 
or Germans, it is because we have Verdi in our blood. 
You should hear how Toscanini, the greatest con- 
ductor in the world to-day, interpets him." 

"The very mention of the man is an argument 
against what you have just been saying," I replied 
"at any rate, as far as the executants are con- 
cerned. You could not find any German to conduct 
Beethoven so well as this remarkable Italian; and 
yet I have heard Verdi better produced in Germany 
than anywhere in Italy. Nietzsche, moreover, 
Nietzsche whom the pan-Germans pervert into a 
Blond Beast, understood 'Carmen* better than any 
Frenchman; and Wagner, the least German of all 



our great composers, has to-day a far greater vogue 
abroad than within the German frontiers." 

"You are only right in respect of exceptions," said 
Mussolini. "Really Wagner did not write Teutonic 
music. Nietzsche, again, who was of Polish extrac- 
tion, was utterly un-German, was continually mak- 
ing fun of Prussia and the new empire, became pro- 
fessor of classical literature in Basle, and was a 
devotee of the culture of the Latin races. But, let me 
repeat, both these men were exceptions. Speaking 
generally, you are mistaken." 

"It seems to me," said I, "that a nation has to pay 
for remarkable musical endowments. I regard the 
Germans as the most musical nation in the world and 
also as the least competent of all in political matters; 
whereas the British, who have so much less music in 
their souls, are the most distinguished for political 

He regarded me with a satirical smile, but would 

not take up the twofold challenge, except in so far 

as to say, with courteous dissent: 

"I have my doubts as to both your superlatives." 

It was time to break new ground, so I asked him: 

"Since you have been a penman (writing both 

serious studies and works of imagination) , and since 



you have practised the art of music, do you think 
you might return to either or both of these fields if, 
by some turn of events, leisure were forced on you 
once more?" 

He shook his head, saying, "I should never go 
back to the contemplative life. I am a western of the 
westerns. Like your own Faust I say, not "In the be- 
ginning was the word/ but 'In the beginning was 
the deed! 3 " 

(He quoted Faust in German: (r lm Anfang war 
die Tat!") 

Wishing to pin him to an authoritative utterance, 
I ventured to ask once more: 

"Do you, in truth, never feel any desire to rest 
from your present labours?" 

"No," he answered decisively, with a look which 
put a seal on the utterance. 



_N my study of great careers/* I began, "I have 
always made it my business to note in one particular 
respect the behaviour of men who have left the 
circle in which they grew up how they have com- 
ported themselves as between their relationship to 
their old friends, on the one hand, and the loneli- 
ness which their new position has forced upon them, 
on the other. Herein there is disclosed the character 
or part of it. What does the man do in such a 
conflict between human kindliness and authority? 
Does he not naturally tend to pass from the tropics 
to the North Pole? Tell me what happens when one 
of your old comrades enters this hall! How do you 
make shift without reopening one of the old discus- 
sions? You once wrote (and it is a fine saying) : *We 
are strong because we have no friends/ " 

Mussolini made no movement, no gesture, as he 
sat opposite me; but there was something unusual, 
something almost childlike in his expression which 
disclosed to me that the topic I had mooted had 



stirred him profoundly. When at length he an- 
swered, it was plain to me that his words were colder 
than his feelings and that he was not disclosing all 
his sentiments or all his thoughts. 

"I cannot have any friends. I have no friends. 
First of all, because of my temperament; secondly, 
because of my view of human beings. That is why 
I avoid both intimacy and discussion. If an old 
friend comes to see me, the interview is distressing 
to us both and does not last long. Only from a dis- 
tance do I follow the careers of my former com- 

"What happens when those who have been friends 
become foes and when such a one calumniates you?" 
I asked, remembering my personal experiences. 
"Which among your old friends have remained 
most faithful to you? Are there any former friends 
whose onslaughts are still a distress to you?" 

He remained unmoved. 

"If those who were once my friends have become 
my enemies, what concerns me to know is whether 
they are my enemies in public life; if so, I fight them. 
Otherwise, they do not interest me. When some for- 
mer collaborators attacked me in the press, declar- 
ing that I had embezzled money intended for Fiume, 
this certainly intensified my misanthropy. The most 



loyal of my friends are enshrined in my heart but 
in general they keep their distance. Precisely because 
they are loyal! They are persons who do not seek 
profit or advancement and only on rare occasions 
do they visit me here just for a moment." 

"Would you trust your life to these or to any one 
else?" I asked. "You have made some of them life 
members of the Gran Consiglio." 

"Three, and only for three years," he said 

"Such being now your position, I am led to ask 
when you felt yourself most lonely. Was it in youth, 
as in D'Annunzio's case; or when you were out- 
wardly in close contact with your party comrades; 
or to-day?" 

"To-day," -he answered without a moment's hesi- 
tation. "But still," he went on, after a pause, "even 
in earlier times no one exerted any influence upon 
me. Fundamentally I have always been alone. Be- 
sides, to-day, though not in prison, I am all the more 
a prisoner/* 

"How can you say that?" I inquired with con- 
siderable heat. "No one in the world has less ground 
for making the statement!" 

"Why?" he asked, his attention riveted by my 



"Because there is no one in the world who can 
act more freely than you!" I rejoined. 

He made a conciliatory gesture and replied: 

"Please don't think that I am inclined to quarrel 
with my fate. Still, to a degree I stand by what I 
said just now. Contact with ordinary human affairs, 
an impromptu life amid the crowd to me, in my 
position, these things are forbidden." 

"You have only to go out for a walk!" 

"I should have to wear a mask," he answered, 
"Once when unmasked I made my way along 
the Via Tritone, I was speedily surrounded by a mob 
of three hundred persons, so that I could not ad- 
vance a step. Still, I do not find my solitude irk- 

"If loneliness is agreeable to you," said I, "how 
do you find it possible to put up with the multitude 
of faces you have to look at here day after day?" 

"In this way," he replied; "I merely see in them 
what they say to me. I do not let them come into 
contact with my inmost being. I am no more moved 
by them than by this table and these papers that lie 
on it. Among them all, I preserve my loneliness un- 

"In that case," said I, "are you not afraid of los- 
ing your mental balance? Do you not recall how the 



reigning Caesar would, while enjoying a triumph 
in the Forum, have with him in his chariot a slave 
whose business it was to remind him continually of 
the nullity of all things?" 

"Of course I remember. The young fellow had 
to keep the emperor in mind of the fact that he was 
a man and not a god. But nowadays that sort of 
thing is needless. For my part, at any rate, I have 
never had any inclination to fancy myself a god but 
have always been keenly aware that I am a mortal 
man, with all the weaknesses and passions proper to 

He spoke with obvious emotion and then went on 
in a calmer tone: 

"You are perpetually hinting at the danger that 
may result from the lack of an opposition. This 
danger would be actual if we lived in quiet times. 
But to-day the opposition is embodied in the prob- 
lems that have to be solved, in the moral and eco- 
nomic problems that perpetually press for solu- 
tion. These suffice to prevent a ruler from going to 
sleep! Furthermore, I create an opposition within 

"I seem to be listening to Lord Byron," said I. 

"I often read both Byron and Leopardi. Then, 
when I have had enough of human beings, I go for 


a voyage. If I could do whatever I liked, I should 
always be at sea. When that is impossible, I content 
myself with animals. Their mental life approximates 
that of man and yet they don't want to get any- 
thing out of him: horses, dogs, and my favourite, 
the cat. Or else I watch wild animals. They embody 
the elemental forces of nature!" 

This avowal seemed to me so misanthropical that 
I asked Mussolini whether he thought a ruler needed 
to be inspired with contempt for mankind rather 
than with kindly feelings. 

"On the contrary," he said with emphasis. "One 
needs ninety-nine per cent, of kindliness and only 
one per cent, of contempt." 

The statement, from him, surprised me, and to 
make sure that I was not misunderstanding him, I 
asked him once more: "You really think, then, that 
your fellow human beings deserve sympathy rather 
than contempt?" 

He regarded me with the inscrutable expression 
which is so common to him and said softly: 

"More sympathy, more compassion; much more 

This utterance reminded me that, when reading 
Mussolini's speeches, I had more than once been 
surprised by what seemed to me a parade of altruism. 



Why should he, the condottiere, refer with so much 
insistence to the interests of the community? I was 
led to ask him: 

"Again and again, in exceedingly well-turned 
phrases, you have declared an increase of your own 
personality to be your aim in life, saying, 'I want 
to make my existence a masterpiece,' or, "I want to 
make my life dramatically effective.' Sometimes you 
have quoted Nietzsche's motto, 'Live dangerously!' 
How, then, can a man with so proud a nature write: 
c My chief aim is to promote the public interest'?" 
Is there not a contradiction here?" 

He was unmoved, 

"I see no contradiction," he replied. "It is per- 
fectly logical. The interest of the community is a 
dramatic affair. By serving it, therefore, I multiply 
my own life." 

I was taken aback and could find no effective 
repartee, but I quoted to him his own words: " *I 
have always had an altruistic outlook on life!' " 

"Unquestionably," said he, "No one can cut him- 
self adrift from mankind. There you have some- 
thing concrete the humanity of the race from 
whose loins I sprang/' 

"The Latin race," I interrupted; "that includes 
the French." 



"I have already declared, in the course of one of 
these conversations, that there is no such thing as a 
pure race! The belief that there is, is an illusion of 
the mind, a feeling. But does it exist any the less 
for that?" 

"If so/* said I, "a man could choose a race for him- 


"Well, I have chosen the Mediterranean, and here 
I have a formidable ally in Nietzsche." 

The name aroused an association in his mind and, 
speaking in German, he quoted the proudest of 
Nietzsche's utterances: "Do I seem to strive for hap- 
piness? I strive on behalf of my work!" 

I pointed out that this idea really derived from 
Goethe and I asked him whether he shared Goethe's 
notion that character is moulded by the blows of 

He nodded assent: "It is to the crises I have had 
to pass through and to the difficulties I have had to 
surmount that I owe what I am. Because of that, one 
must always stake one's all." 

"Therewith you run the risk of destroying your- 
self and your work by taking needless risks." 

"Life has its price," he answered confidently, 

"You cannot live without risk. This very day I went 
into battle once more." 

"If you were consistent in that view, you would 
not seek to protect yourself," I said. 

"I don't," he rejoined. 

"What!" I exclaimed. "Do you not recognise 
that again and again some one of your enemies risks 
his own life in the hope of depriving you of yours?" 

"Oh, I understand what you are driving at. I 
know, too, the rumours that are current. It is said 
that I am watched over by a thousand policemen 
and that every night I sleep in some new place. Yet 
in actual fact, I sleep night after night in the Villa 
Torlonia and I drive or ride whenever and whither- 
soever fancy seizes me. If I were to be continually 
thinking of my own safety, I should feel humili- 

"Tell me," I said in conclusion, "what part does 
the desire for fame play in your life? Is not that 
desire for fame the strongest motive for a ruler? Is 
not fame the only way of escaping death? Has not 
fame been your goal since you were a boy? Has not 
all your work been animated by the desire for fame?" 

Mussolini was imperturbable. 

"Fame did not loom before me in boyhood," he 

said; tc and I do not agree with you that the desire 
for fame is the strongest of motives. In this respect 
you are right, that it is some consolation to feel that 
one will not wholly die. Never has my work been 
exclusively guided by the wish for fame. Immor- 
tality is the hall mark of fame." He made a sweeping 
gesture towards a remote and uncontrollable future, 
adding, "But that comes afterwards."